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The Brief: Oct. 3, 2012

After two months of little action, the U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Paul Sadler erupted at a hostile debate Tuesday night.

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The Big Conversation:

After two months of little action, the U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Paul Sadler erupted at a hostile, at times uncomfortable debate Tuesday night.

At the televised forum in Dallas, Cruz and Sadler traded barbs — and a few insults — while mostly ignoring pleas from the moderators to stay on topic and stop interrupting each other, as the Tribune's Aman Batheja reports.

Sadler, the aggressor throughout much of the night, painted Cruz as extreme and inexperienced and criticized him for passing up an invitation to a third debate. But Sadler, a former state representative from Henderson, spent almost as much time trying to make Cruz answer yes-or-no questions, like whether he believed President Barack Obama is a Christian. ("As much as Mr. Sadler wants, I’m not going to be drawn into that," Cruz said after the debate, according to The Dallas Morning News.)

Meanwhile, Cruz, the former state solicitor general and the race's undisputed front-runner, kept his composure while tying Sadler to Obama and accusing his opponent — also a lawyer — of trying to "cross-examine" him.

"He is running an unapologetically liberal campaign," Cruz said. "I don't think those are the values of most Texans."

In one of the debate's most heated exchanges, Sadler denied that he ever supported a state income tax but acknowledged that as a member of the Legislature he had to consider various ways of balancing the state's budget. 

"What you don’t do is do your job as a legislator worried that some troll will come along 10 years later or 20 years later and try to run a campaign against you," Sadler said.

To which Cruz shot back: "I’m sorry, Mr. Sadler, you believe I’m a troll."

The lively but tense debate offered Sadler his first opportunity to directly engage with Cruz, who since winning his primary in July has reserved most of his firepower for Obama. For good reason, too: The Texas Lyceum poll released Tuesday showed him leading his Democratic opponent by 26 points — long odds for Sadler that were reflected in his aggressive tone Tuesday night.

Culled:

  • The Houston Chronicle has found that the 9,000 letters Harris County sent out as part of a dead-voter purge went to a disproportionately high number of voters in traditionally black districts. Though the purge, performed as part of a new state law meant to scrub voter rolls, was canceled after the county began receiving complaints from living citizens, the controversy has sparked calls for an investigation. "The recent mistakes let me know that we need a neutral party to look into the matter. And that's the U.S. Department of Justice," said Precinct 1 Commissioner E. Franco Lee.
  • The new Texas Lyceum poll, which shows Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz with comfortable leads in Texas, reveals that most Texans — 54 percent — aren't ready to say whether they think Gov. Rick Perry should seek another term. Thirty percent said they opposed a fourth Perry term, while 18 percent supported it. Other findings in the poll, which was released Tuesday: 74 would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund teacher pay raises. Federal health care reform also still splits the state, with 50 percent opposed and 42 percent in favor.
  • State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, on Tuesday pressed state officials to use newly found state revenue to reverse the $5.4 billion worth of public education cuts made last year, The Dallas Morning News reports. "There are no excuses. We have the money," said Villarreal, speaking on behalf of a group of education advocates at a press conference in Austin. Democrats have said the Legislature next year should use the unexpected revenue to undo the massive cuts, but top Republicans have said the surplus won't likely be big enough to cover those costs.

"I’m impressed that we’re a few minutes into it and you’ve already called me three times crazy on observing that the president has expanded government dependency." — Ted Cruz to Paul Sadler at Tuesday's debate

Must-Read:

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