Dewhurst Shifts Focus From Cruz to Leppert

Tom Leppert and David Dewhurst, left, and Glenn Addison, right, during a U.S. Senate GOP candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012.
Tom Leppert and David Dewhurst, left, and Glenn Addison, right, during a U.S. Senate GOP candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012.

After several weeks of focusing his attacks in his bid for U.S. Senate on former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst launched a broadside against former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert on Wednesday.

Dewhurst’s campaign unveiled LiberalTomLeppert.com, a site filled with criticisms of Leppert’s record while mayor of Dallas, all of which Leppert has in the past dismissed as false or misleading. Though records show the web domain was purchased last month, Dewhurst’s campaign only began promoting the site on Twitter on Wednesday. A LiberalTomLeppert YouTube account was also created Wednesday with a single video tying Leppert to the controversial community activist group ACORN.

Leppert said he laughed when he first heard about the site.

“If they’re doing that, then we feel pretty darn good because you wouldn’t worry about doing that unless you knew what we knew,” he said, explaining that internal polls show both he and Cruz have a chance of ending up in a runoff with Dewhurst.

Speaking to reporters after a campaign event at Scholz Garden in Austin on Wednesday evening, Dewhurst and members of his campaign discouraged reading too much into the timing of the new site’s release.

“I think our campaign wants to make sure the voters know all that they can about all of the candidates,” Dewhurst said. “I think there are a number of things they wanted to point out so that’s why they did that.”

The site describes Leppert as “ACORN’s best friend,” and alleges that Leppert signed a pledge backing the organization’s agenda. Leppert said he attended candidate forums held by the organization while running for mayor — in Dallas, the post is nonpartisan — but never supported the group’s liberal views.

“In the end, what it is it is another example of career politicians playing the same old game: throwing a bunch of mud,” Leppert said.

Dewhurst's campaign also released a new ad Wednesday emphasizing Dewhurst's success as a businessman, echoing a theme Leppert has made a centerpiece of his campaign.

The Dewhurst campaign confirmed that the ad is one of four it now has running around the state. Two others tout endorsements from Gov. Rick Perry and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. A fourth ad focuses on Cruz's legal work for a Chinese company involved in an intellectual property theft case .

The Dewhurst campaign’s new focus on Leppert comes as both Dewhurst and Cruz have loaned their campaigns more money to carry them to the May 29 primary, according to reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

Dewhurst loaned his campaign nearly $1.2 million on May 14, the first day of early voting. He had previously loaned his campaign $8 million.

On May 18, Cruz loaned his campaign an extra $400,000 on top of an earlier $70,000 loan.

Leppert has loaned his campaign about $3.6 million and said he didn’t expect to loan any more over the next week. He said his campaign has made all the ad buys it needs in advance of next week's primary.

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Monday showed Dewhurst and Cruz likely headed to a runoff in the Senate race, with Leppert coming in third place.

On Wednesday evening, Dewhurst did not rule out the possibility of ending up in a runoff.

“I’m confident that we’ll be the top vote-getter,” Dewhurst said. “As long as I’m the top vote-getter I’m happy with the results.”

When asked if he was prepared to put more of his own money into the race if he ended up in a runoff, Dewhurst paused, then said, “Why don’t you ask my wife?”

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