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Cruz, Dewhurst on the Offensive Ahead of GOP Debate

Ahead of Tuesday night's debate — likely the last televised debate of the GOP U.S. Senate runoff — the race between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz has grown increasingly negative.

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DALLAS  — On the heels of fresh attacks from both sides and less than a week before early voting begins, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz will take part in a televised debate Tuesday night.

While both Republicans in a runoff for an open U.S. Senate seat have ratcheted up the attacks in recent days with new ads, it remains to be seen whether they will be as combative at Tuesday's debate, which is hosted by Belo. At some recent events, both Dewhurst and Cruz have worked to keep a positive tone to their remarks.

Still, Dewhurst is likely to bring up Robert Mericle, a Pennsylvania developer at the center of a judicial corruption scheme known as the “kids for cash” scandal. Cruz performs civil legal work for Mericle, a connection that Dewhurst hammered in both a television ad and a web video released by the campaign Monday. Cruz has said he had nothing to do with Mericle's criminal defense.

Cruz countered Tuesday with a new radio ad, called “Flip Flop,” which accuses Dewhurst of changing his positions on issues including amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Dewhurst said he supported a guest worker program in a 2007 speech but has recently said he does not support any such program. That speech, as well as dozens of others that were on his state website, was recently removed, prompting accusations from Cruz that Dewhurst is trying to hide from his previous statements, a charge the Dewhurst campaign has strongly denied.

Tuesday’s debate will be broadcast live by Belo TV stations in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio as well as Belo’s TXCN cable stations, which operate in 13 markets around the state. Several non-Belo stations around the state plan to broadcast the program either live or later this month.

The Belo debate is likely to be the last televised event featuring the two candidates before the July 31 runoff.

Soon after the May 29 primary, both Cruz and Dewhurst said they were willing to participate in at least five debates, but only two were announced. Cruz’s campaign has accused Dewhurst of trying to duck more debates. Dewhurst’s campaign has said that they are only interested in events hosted by television stations that could be broadcast throughout the state.

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2012 elections David Dewhurst Ted Cruz