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Little Competition but Big Differences in U.S. Senate Race

A relatively quiet race has helped mask the stark differences between Democrat Paul Sadler and Republican Ted Cruz in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Ted Cruz and Paul Sadler during the KERA/Texas Tribune debate for U.S. Senate on Oct. 19, 2012.

Republicans continue to dominate politics across the state. The party’s fundraising outpaces its rivals', and a strong anti-Washington sentiment has resonated with voters for years. All of that, analysts say, is working against Democratic Senate hopeful Paul Sadler.

But on the campaign trail, Sadler doesn’t focus on his odds of winning but rather on pointing out the stark differences between him and his Republican opponent, Ted Cruz — starting with federal health care reform.

Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News

“I don’t think they really want to repeal doing way with the pre-existing condition exemption,” Sadler said. “I don’t think they really want to repeal allowing kids to stay on health care policies until age 26. I don’t think they really want to repeal a free screening exam for seniors. I don’t think they really want to repeal the closing of the 'donut hole' in the prescription drug law.”

Cruz says his first action as senator would be to “repeal every syllable of every word of Obamacare.” Cruz doesn’t have a replacement plan ready to go, but he says any health care reform should expand competition and get federal bureaucrats out of the way. That includes, he says, getting rid of federal mandates in health insurance policies.

“The most simple rule of economics is there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” Cruz said. “Everything you mandate that an insurance policy cover drives up its cost, which means there are more and more people that can’t afford to get insurance.”

Any changes to federal health care reform — especially if there is a split in party control of the U.S. House, Senate and presidency — will require negotiations and compromise, something Sadler says he got plenty of practice at during his 12 years as a state representative.

“We need to restore respect and dignity to our government,” Sadler said. “We need to elect people that solve problems. That’s my history.”

Cruz says he’ll work with anyone, even Democrats, to solve the country’s problems. But there are some compromises he just won’t make, including his stance that the scope of the federal government should focus on its constitutional responsibilities like protecting the border and helping to build interstate infrastructure.

“And at the end of the day, there are a great many things that the states and local governments can do far better than can the feds in Washington,” Cruz said. “And we don’t need them to take our money, ship it to Washington, charge a percentage and send it back.”

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2012 elections Ted Cruz