GOP Senate hopefuls face-off in Belo Debate

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on July 17, 2012 at 11:19 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 2 at 5:10 PM

DALLAS — Political fireworks erupted at WFAA's Victory Park studio Tuesday night as the two men seeking the Republican Senate nomination discussed jobs, health care, and public safety in Texas during a feisty Belo Debate.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz faced off in a debate unlike any other you've seen in this race.

There were no podiums.

No rules.

And no time limits.

It was more like a kitchen table conversation, where both candidates went head-to-head early on.

Before the debate started, Ted Cruz joked that he almost wore the same necktie as David Dewhurst. But within minutes, the sparring began in the roundtable discussion.

Cruz — the tea party favorite — has always insisted he would not compromise in Congress. But on Tuesday night, he softened that position.

"I am perfectly happy to compromise and work with others — be they Republicans or Democrats — if we're shrinking the size of government; if we're advancing the ball; if we're advancing freedom," he said.

Then the lieutenant governor's position on a guest worker program came into focus. In a 2007 speech, Dewhurst said he supported it. But last month, Dewhurst said he opposes it.

Cruz wanted to know why that 2007 speech is no longer available online.

"The lieutenant governor then instructed government employees to remove that speech from the state website," Cruz alleged.

"To imply that there was anything improper done, my friend I'm not the one that was just fined by the Senate Ethics Committee," Dewhurst said.

"The form I was late filing, he was late filing the very same form, and what I paid was a $200 late fee," Cruz responded.

Dewhurst has run political ads criticizing Cruz — who is a lawyer — for representing a Chinese company.

Cruz then questioned whether the lieutenant governor secretly invests in China.

"He's got over $200 million that are shrouded in secrecy and invested all over the world," Cruz said.

"Oh, that's not true," Dewhurst replied.

After the debate, Cruz could not substantiate whether Dewhurst has any investments in China.

The hour-long battle evolved into a debate over who is more conservative. But in the end, it will be about voter turnout — which candidate can get the most supporters to the polls in a midsummer runoff when interest generally isn't that high.

Right now, polls show this is a very tight race. We're two weeks away from the July 31 election.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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