GOP U.S. Senate race a millionaire's game

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on May 24, 2012 at 6:04 PM

Updated Friday, May 25 at 4:36 AM

DALLAS - In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz picked up an endorsement from Rick Santorum, the former presidential candidate. It was just one of a handful of developments Tuesday with one day left of early voting before next Tuesday's primary.

Meanwhile, frontrunner David Dewhurst learned his lead over Cruz has increased to 17 percent in a new poll.

The survey of 482 likely Republican primary voters on May 22 and 23 has margin of error of +/-4.5 percent. It found Dewhurst has 46 percent support, to Cruz' 29 percent. Tom Leppert is third with 15 percent, with Craig James barely registering at 3 percent.

The top three finishers in that poll are also the candidates who lead in putting their own personal fortunes into their campaigns. For two of them, that means millions and millions of dollars, and that the Republican primary for the open senate seat has become a rich man's game.

With a net worth of more than $200 million, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst leads in polls and personal money put in his campaign -- $9.9 million so far, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Dewhurst explained the spending as a response to TV attacks by opponents.

"I'm forced to be in a situation where I've got to defend myself," he said.

With some 20 Texas media markets and a campaign where the top candidates broadly agree on issues, spending big on TV can make the difference.

Ted Cruz, an attorney, can't draw on personal wealth like Dewhurst, but still dropped in $470,000 of his money. He said he did so to respond to Dewhurst,"and his super PACs have spent millions on top of that all relentlessly attacking me."

In his TV ads, former Dallas mayor and construction company CEO Tom Leppert attacks them both. Leppert's tapped $3.6 million of his money, and said no more.

"I put my money into it, and we're playing that exactly out so we're not having to make any last minute adjustments," he said.

Craig James loaned his campaign $300,000 to date. He initially committed $750,000 but then repaid himself $450,000 after he failed to rise in polls or get fundraising traction. It's not enough for TV ads, but James did get buzz for his bucks and into debates.

That was more than little-known candidate Glenn Addison, who gave his campaign $6,000.

At an Austin debate in January, Addison said he was the common man in the race.

"I'm tired of career politicians and elitist insiders, and so I'm going to Washington to work for we the people for six years, and then come back to my day job, like the founding fathers talked about," Addison said.

But in this game that demands very big money, Addison won't likely be leaving his job as a funeral home owner in Magnolia.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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