Cruz, Patrick Have Heated Debate on Dewhurst's Record

State Sen. Dan Patrick holds a short press conference on his intentions to run for U.S. Senate on May 27, 2011.
State Sen. Dan Patrick holds a short press conference on his intentions to run for U.S. Senate on May 27, 2011.

Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, had a volatile exchange Thursday on Patrick’s Houston-based radio show in which Patrick accused Cruz of lying and running an overly negative campaign.

Cruz, in turn, accused Patrick of actively working for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s election in the U.S. Senate race but refusing to be upfront with Texans about it.

Near the start of the tense half-hour interview, Patrick accused Cruz of distorting the facts by blaming Dewhurst for the failure of some conservative bills in the Legislature.

Regarding a bill that would have banned so-called sanctuary cities in Texas, Patrick said the measure failed because it couldn’t get through the House.

“That was over in the House,” Patrick said. “If you want to complain about their leadership, complain about their leadership.”

Cruz said Patrick had endorsed Dewhurst in the race, a charge Patrick hotly denied. In May, Patrick posted a  message on Facebook in which he praised Dewhurst’s record as a conservative but said explicitly that he wasn’t endorsing in the race. Dewhurst’s campaign has touted Patrick’s comments and distributed printouts of the post at campaign events. Cruz said Patrick had been acting as a campaign surrogate for Dewhurst for months.

“Every time I go on the radio, you ask the question that the Dewhurst campaign wants you to ask, and then you’re interview is put in their ads,” Cruz said. “You’re an effective surrogate. You defend him far better than he does.”

Patrick insisted he was not taking direction from the Dewhurst campaign. He also said that he liked both Dewhurst and Cruz. But he lobbed several critiques at Cruz during the interview, suggesting Cruz is overly combative, ignorant of how legislation is passed in Austin and insufficiently supportive of Republicans in Harris County until recently.

He also loudly interrupted Cruz multiple times. Both men raised their voices during the exchange at different points.

“Do you want me to respond, or do you want to just yell at me?” Cruz said at one point.

Regarding the sanctuary cities bill, Cruz asked Patrick if the measure would have become law if Patrick had been lieutenant governor. Patrick said it still would have died. Cruz said he didn’t believe Patrick.

Patrick told Cruz he was spending too much of his campaign disparaging Dewhurst.

“What I would ask both of you is give it a rest for crying out loud,” Patrick said. Referring to repeated attacks by the Dewhurst campaign on Cruz’s work as an appellate lawyer for a Chinese tire company that was found liable for intellectual property theft, Patrick said, “I’ve told his campaign they need to give the China campaign a rest.”

Patrick suggested that both Cruz and Dewhurst come on his show at the same time and engage in a debate.

Near the end of the interview, Cruz praised Patrick’s passion and his conservative values but made clear he didn’t believe that Patrick was neutral in the race.

“Before the election season, your views on the lieutenant governor were different, and I think at the end of the election season they will be too,” Cruz said.

Within hours of the exchange, the Dewhurst campaign had posted the radio interview online and issued a news release describing the interview as a “train wreck” and an “epic meltdown.”

“The ruse is over, and Ted’s true character has shown through,” Dewhurst spokesman Mark Miner said.

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