Major Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate knocked heads Thursday night in a debate that was more lively than the presidential forums that have become a TV mainstay.
Several candidates threw verbal punches at Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the frontrunner. The guy in the back in the polls, Magnolia funeral home director Glenn Addison, turned out to be the evening's crowd pleaser, though.
None of the candidates had any immediately apparent campaign-altering gaffes. Most of the jabs were between Dewhurst, Ted Cruz and Tom Leppert, who've been in the race the longest and who were raising significant amounts of money in the last reports. Craig James, the fifth man on stage, got into the race in December — he actually made his formal announcement earlier on the day of the debate — and hasn't yet reported his campaign finances.
At the top of the debate, Cruz, former state solicitor general, criticized Dewhurst for not coming to most of the other candidate forums up until now. Leppert, a former Dallas mayor, criticized the two of them as career political figures while touting himself as a businessman. Dewhurst bragged on his record as lieutenant governor and his ability to cut budgets and taxes.
The responses were limited to just a few minutes each, and the pace was lively. The sponsors of the debate — the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Empower Texans — streamed the event live online and allowed the Tribune to do the same.
Here are some of the highlights we tweeted from the debate:
• Just starting the Senate debate; introductions interrupted; one unnamed candidate in bathroom.
• Ted Cruz has a loud fan base in the audience. So does Dewhurst.
• James: "I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I've got a pistol and a shotgun between my mattresses."
• Cruz: Starts with a poke at Dewhurst. "He's missed 19 debates so far, and I welcome him to this stage."
• Dewhurst opens: Obama trampling on our God-given rights. "I want to go to Washington and cut spending."
• Leppert, like Dewhurst, like James, points to his business experience. Says his plan is more detailed, serious, than others'.
• And now, Addison: "I'm Glenn Addison, a common man." "I'm a small businessman"
• Addison says he wants to kill the EPA; calls it a "job-killer." Now taking on China and "spineless, wussy senators" who won't react.
• Cruz on immigration: Wants to triple size of Border Patrol. Says Dewhurst supported in-state tuition for kids of illegal immigrants.
• Dewhurst: I have always been against an amnesty program. "If they want to be a citizen, they ought to go home and reapply."
• Dewhurst says he was against tuition for children of illegal immigrants.
• Addison: Says law should allow citizens to apprehend immigrants and call authorities to come get them.
• Leppert: A flat tax is an opportunity to expand the base... the tax code has more words than the Holy Bible.
• Cruz on flat tax proposal: There is a permanent elite in Wshington in both parties protecting tax code.
• James says he supports a flat tax "at the lowest possible rate."
• Addison says he does not support a flat tax. "If it was good enough for the founders, it's good enough for me. I support duties."
• Dewhurst: "I am in favor of a fairer tax, a flatter tax."
• Who's the US Secretary of Defense? James: This is a gotcha moment. Leon Panetta.
• Addison: We have no business occupying other countries, running their affairs.
• Leppert: The president's (defense) strategy is wrong. It puts us in a precarious position.
• Addison: If we can get the regulatory boot off the neck of the American economy, it will grow again.
• Dewhurst: I've been involved in repeatedly cutting spending by billions and taxes by billions.
• Addison: Tom (Leppert) has a 33-page plan. That's worrisome to me because it's longer than the constitution.
• Cruz on Dewhurst income tax: In 2006, he told the Associated Press "I think I'd rather see a tax that's based on income."
• Cruz: "It's interesting when people try to run away from their records." Dewhurst was dragged kicking and screaming to cut the budget.
• Now to audience questions instead of media questions.
• Dewhurst on bring jobs back to America: Have to repeal the harm that Obama has done.
• Addison: Says he would exempt corporations from taxes on profits from reopened U.S. factories.
• James would cut taxes, and would boost vocational education.
• Cruz: Obama has waged an unrelenting war on small business.... unleash the private sector.
• To question about who to trust to shrink gov't: Leppert says he has cut spending in private and in public sector.
• Addison: People tell me in Magnolia that I squeak when I walk, I'm so tight.
• Cruz says he will throw his body in front of a train to stop Obamacare.
• Dewhurst: I think everyone on stage can give a good speech and say roughly the same thing. Says he's actually done it.
• Now we've come to closing.
• James: I've worked multiple jobs my entire career. #txsen
• James: Now it's time for me to become a public servant... Thanks the sponsors for having him on their board for 2 years.
• Cruz: If we don't stop what's happening, we will lose our nation.
• Cruz: Texans want a fighter.
• Dewhurst: You know, Ted, you had it easy in a lot of ways. My dad was killed by a drunk driver...
• I've worked hard... I've been lucky. Says that's why he serves.
• Dewhurst: We've got a huge something to do in Washington. It's broken.
• Addison: The first five words on my legislation: "This bill is to repeal... "
• Addison: I believe it's time we have a common man working for we the people.
• Leppert: We don't have forever (to fix the economy). We have until the end of this decade at the outside.
• Leppert: I was raised by a single mom... says he worked as a janitor and a dishwasher.
• Leppert: Can't just keep electing the same people that we've done. There's just too much at stake.
• They're done!