Update, 1:35 p.m.: U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Cruz is firing back at complaints from GOP lawmakers who say he is distorting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's record on hot-button issues like government spending, taxes and immigration.
Cruz stood by his portrayal of Dewhurst as a profligate spender and early proponent of a payroll tax as part of a massive school finance overhaul nearly a decade ago. The former solicitor general released his own "open letter," in this case directly to Dewhurst. It was an answer to a letter released over the weekend and signed by all but one member of the Republican Senate caucus.
Dewhurst presides over the state Senate in his role at lieutenant governor. Cruz said that if Dewhurst takes issue with the way Cruz has described his record in the state Senate, he should do it in an open forum and not by having surrogates do it for him.
"If you disagree, honor your commitment to explain your record before Texas voters, not by hiding behind people who are not running for U.S. Senator, but by standing on your own two feet," Cruz wrote.
Then he answered the letter from the GOP caucus point by point and threw in a couple of new attacks. He again blamed Dewhurst for failing to pass legislation cracking down on sanctuary cities and cited his past statements in favor of a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants.
Cruz also released figures showing that the overall state budget grew on Dewhurst's watch. The figure includes federal funds, but Cruz said Dewhurst sought increases in federal funding to cover health care and other needs.
The U.S. Senate campaign of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, hoping to make the most of a helping hand from friendly GOP legislators, blasted former Solicitor General Ted Cruz on Monday for spreading “misinformation” about the Republicans’ legislative record over the last decade.
Dewhurst spokesman Mark Miner said Monday that an open letter from Republicans in the state Senate shows that GOP lawmakers are tired of being caught in the crossfire of the U.S. Senate contest between Cruz and Dewhurst. The letter, while never mentioning Cruz by name, takes issue with some of his main talking points.
“This clearly demonstrates how Republicans in Texas have had enough of Ted Cruz and his Washington insider cronies putting out misinformation,” Miner said. “This race is about the conservative policies that have been implemented in Texas versus a Washington insider like Ted Cruz. David Dewhurst is the proven conservative in this race.”
The Cruz campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Cruz has portrayed Dewhurst as a profligate spender who proposed tax increases, blocked legislation cracking down on invasive searches by airport screeners and failed to gain passage of a bill designed to end the practice of allowing illegal immigrants to live undisturbed in “sanctuary cities.”
The open letter from the Senate Republicans seeks to “set the record straight.”
It blames Democrats, not Dewhurst, for blocking the sanctuary cities bill during the regular 2011 special session and notes that the bill died in the House in the special session that followed. The letter blames the House for failing to pass its version of a bill cracking down on the Transportation Security Administration.
On budget and tax issues, the letter said: “Budget watchdog groups have repeatedly praised Texas for being a low tax, low spending state and specifically for keeping state spending lower than the rate of population and inflation growth since 2001. To characterize the Texas record as one of reckless spending is simply untrue.”
A single GOP senator, Tea Party-backed Brian Birdwell, one of the most conservative members of the Legislature, withheld his name from the letter.
In a statement emailed to reporters, Birdwell said he wanted to remain neutral in the race.
"In the current U.S. Senate race, as in all Texas races, I have made a decision to remain neutral and avoid endorsing individual candidates. I have made no endorsement in the race for U.S. Senate, nor will I. Signing my name to the Caucus' letter may have been perceived by some as out of step with that commitment."