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Letter to the Editor: Who is Tough as Texas?

Who is Tough as Texas?

As someone who moved from NYC about eight years ago, I might not understand Texas tough but I do know NYC tough. Ted Cruz showed moxie when he went to the Bronx during the Presidential primaries. He stood strong as crowds booed while one lone supporter yelled: “We love you, Ted.” That was tough, even by NYC standards. Amazed I watched him take on candidate Trump for insulting his wife and father.  Where’s that Ted Cruz?

He’s a sniveling coward, who’s kissing Trump’s butt while calling out Beto for not being “Tough as Texas.” I see Beto barnstorming through Texas hitting Red counties. Skateboarding through What a Burger but refusing to back down on his “take a knee” stance. Beto is showing up and being honest with Texans. Now maybe I don’t understand “Tough as Texas” but I see Beto O’Rourke tough enough for this former New Yorker. In my opinion, he’s Texas tough.

Mary Ellen Popkin

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El Paso Herald-Post welcomes all views and viewpoints.  To have your opinion heard, submit your letter to news@epheraldpost.com

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke Discusses DWI, Term Limits

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, maintained Saturday night that he did not flee the scene of a 1998 drinking and driving incident, a contradiction of a police report filed at the time.

“I did not flee,” he told Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith at the closing keynote of the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. “The police report on this count is wrong.”

O’Rourke added: “I reached out to the passenger who was in the car that I was driving — who also does not appear in the police report, among other factual errors — somebody that I’ve not spoken to in more than 15 years, and asked her recollection of that evening. She said, ‘No, we were in the median of the road. We did not try to flee. I don’t know that there was anywhere we could have gone.’”

During the wide-ranging conversation, O’Rourke, who is running to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, also reiterated his commitment to not seek higher office should he be elected to the Senate. He said that while he has been on the campaign trail, most of the responsibility for raising his three children has fallen to his wife, Amy O’Rourke, and that “our kids need us to be a family.” He also said he would limit himself to a maximum of two terms.

O’Rourke accused Cruz — whom he repeatedly refused to address by name, instead referring to him as “the junior senator from Texas” — of running a “cynical” campaign rooted in fear.

After repeatedly making headlines for eclipsing the incumbent in money raised for his campaign, O’Rourke declined to give a firm answer on his fundraising total in the third quarter of this year, which ends Sunday.

“I honestly don’t know, but it’s a lot,” he said.

O’Rourke ended the night by appearing before a massive crowd at Auditorium Shores, an Austin concert venue, where country music legend Willie Nelson headlined a show for the candidate.

“Let tonight be a message to the future,” O’Rourke said. “Let them know who we are, what we believe in and what we are willing to do to accomplish our goals. Let them know that we believe in this country, let them know that we believe we can come together and do great things for this country, And let them know that we believe that Texas can lead the way.”

O’Rourke went to tell supporters they’ve “never been so close, but it’s on all of us.” He encouraged them to get registered to vote by the Oct. 9 deadline — there were 250 voter registrars at the event — and be prepared to cast an early ballot when the period begins Oct. 22.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Leads Beto O’Rourke 54 to 45, New Poll Says

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, leads his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke by 9 percentage points among likely voters, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

Released Tuesday, the survey found Cruz with 54 percent support and O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman, with 45 percent. Only 1 percent of those polled were undecided.

“The Texas U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic hopes for an upset win there, have boosted talk of a Senate takeover,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a news release. “These numbers may calm that talk.”

It’s the first time Quinnipiac has released a likely voter survey in the Senate race. Quinnipiac previously polled registered voters three times, finding Cruz ahead by 6 points in August, 11 in May and 3 in April.

Quinnipiac also surveyed the governor’s race in the most recent poll and continued to find a much less competitive contest, with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democratic opponent Lupe Valdez by 19 points.

In the Senate race, Quinnipiac found Cruz has a higher favorability rating than O’Rourke does. Fifty-two percent of likely voters said they like Cruz to 43 percent who said they do not, while the split was a more divided 43-42 for O’Rourke.

Quinnipiac also asked likely voters about President Donald Trump — and they were evenly split, with 49 percent approving of the job he is doing and 49 percent disapproving. Trump is set to visit the state next month to rally for Cruz.

The latest Quinnipiac survey was conducted from Sept. 11 to Sept. 17 and reached 807 likely voters using live interviews on landlines and cell phones. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 4.1 percentage points.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Cruz, O’Rourke Agree to 3 Debates

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, have agreed to three debates before Election Day.

Announced Friday by both campaigns, the schedule calls for debates Sept. 21 in Dallas, Sept. 30 in Houston and Oct. 16 in San Antonio. Each event will be an hour long and vary in topic and format:

  • Dallas: Domestic policy, moderated
  • Houston: Domestic policy, “town hall style”
  • San Antonio: Half domestic policy, half foreign policy; moderated

The Dallas debate will be at Southern Methodist University, the Houston debate will be at the University of Houston and the San Antonio debate will be at a studio there.

The announcement caps a debate over debates that began in May when O’Rourke proposed six debates with Cruz, two in Spanish. Cruz, who is not fluent in the language, quickly shot down that idea and maintained he was open to debating O’Rourke but wanted to wait until closer to Election Day to talk debate details and lock in a schedule.

In July, Cruz formally responded to O’Rourke’s debate challenge, proposing five topical debates over three months in five cities. O’Rourke took issue with several aspects of Cruz’s counter-offer, including the fact all the debates would be on Friday evenings during high school football season. O’Rourke also asked Cruz if they could add a sixth debate in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, and Cruz offered to swap out one of the five cities in his plan for El Paso.

While the schedule announced Friday does not feature a debate in El Paso, it does include days that are not Friday. The Dallas debate falls on a Friday, but the ones in Houston and San Antonio are on a Sunday and Tuesday, respectively.

For weeks, the two campaigns had appeared to be at a stalemate. Seeking to force O’Rourke’s hand, Cruz accepted an invitation from two Dallas media outlets to debate O’Rourke on Aug. 31 in that city — which had been part of Cruz’s proposed schedule — but O’Rourke declined to follow suit, citing continued problems with the debate negotiations. More recently, Cruz expressed doubt that debates would even happen with the two sides at loggerheads and the clock ticking until Election Day.

Early voting begins Oct. 22.

 

**Update

KCOS-TV, Channel 13. will carry the first debate Friday, September 21st @ 5pm.

 

 

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Cruz Allies Take Aim at O’Rourke Over Eminent Domain, Father-in-Law

Allies of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are targeting his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, in a new TV ad over his support on the El Paso City Council for a plan to redevelop downtown El Paso that raised the threat of eminent domain.

The plan never went that far but fueled a contentious chapter in El Paso politics starting over a decade ago. The new TV ad from the Club for Growth — a national conservative group that recently announced a seven-figure offensive in the race — portrays O’Rourke as a puppet of wealthy developers who pushed the project, including his father-in-law, Bill Sanders.

“El Paso’s rich and powerful stay that way by controlling politicians like Beto O’Rourke,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot. “As a councilman, Beto carried water for his wealthy father-in-law, the developer behind a downtown redevelopment scheme, pushing the city to bulldoze an historic Hispanic neighborhood using eminent domain.”

The ad goes on to refer to eminent domain as a “government wrecking ball” and ends by tagging O’Rourke as “Beto the Bully.”

The O’Rourke campaign did not have an immediate comment on the ad.

Titled “Bulldozer,” the spot starts airing Tuesday in San Antonio, and the Club for Growth plans to also run it in Dallas and Houston in the coming weeks. The group’s super PAC arm, Club for Growth Action, is spending $200,000 on the ad for now.The commercial is part of an at least $1 million investment in the race that the organization announced last month, seeing a tightening race between O’Rourke and Cruz, on whom it spent lavishly in 2012.

The Club for Growth commercial involves an episode that has come up in O’Rourke’s previous races for City Council and Congress but not in the Senate contest until recently. The downtown revitalization plan was introduced in March 2006 by the Paso Del Norte Group —a private organization made up of regional business elite including Sanders — and would have impacted the historic Mexican-American neighborhood of Segundo Barrio.

While eminent domain was never used in conjunction with the project, the specter of it was controversial from the start. O’Rourke was among those on the council who at least initially wanted to preserve the option of eminent domain as a last resort and, for example, helped defeat a June 2006 motion to rule it out. A month later, as public concerns were growing about the plan, the council — including O’Rourke — voted to ban the use of eminent domain during the first year of the project.

Sanders initially said in April 2006 that he would not invest in the project to avoid creating an ethical dilemma for his son-in-law, according to El Paso Times articles from the time. Later in the year, however, he decided to invest in the plan after all, citing encouragement he received from then-Mayor John Cook, and promised any dividends would go to a downtown nonprofit.

O’Rourke appeared to cite that promise in denying there was any conflict of interest. Sanders “cannot profit from this plan, nor can I, nor can any member of my family,” O’Rourke wrote in an email to the Texas Observer for a 2007 story on the project titled, “Eminent Disaster.”

Still, opponents of the plan hounded O’Rourke as the council grappled with the issue in 2006. There was the threat of a recall petition — the signatures were never turned in — and two ethics complaints filed against O’Rourke, both of which were ultimately dismissed, the El Paso Times reported.

O’Rourke went on to easily win re-election the council in 2007, defeating a challenger who had made the project an issue. It came up again in his successful 2012 bid to defeat then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, whose campaign raised the potential destruction of Segundo Barrio homes in an attack ad against O’Rourke.

By the end of the decade, the plan — at least as initially conceived — had lost steam. The issue was further complicated in 2009 when Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment tightening eminent domain rules in the state.

In O’Rourke’s race against Cruz, the line of attack involving eminent domain is relatively new. Before Tuesday’s ad, it was only included on a long list of O’Rourke hits featured on a website launched last week by Texans Are, the other pro-Cruz super PAC.

On the campaign trail, O’Rourke often talks about eminent domain in the context of his opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last year, O’Rourke introduced a bill to ban eminent domain for the purpose of the wall.

Cruz supports the wall, though he does not talk much about the use of eminent domain to construct it. Some other top Texas Republicans, such as Attorney General Ken Paxtonhave said they are OK with eminent domain for the wall.

Another super PAC, Texans Are, is also planning to spend into the seven figures on the race and its first TV ads are also set to hit the air Tuesday. One of them, seen on air in San Antonio, attacks O’Rourke over his record on border security and immigration.

“Lawless borders, reckless politician — that’s Beto O’Rourke,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Cruz Says O’Rourke Voted Against Harvey Tax Breaks; O’Rourke Says There’s More to The Story

A new attack ad from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s Senate campaign knocks U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, for voting against tax relief for Hurricane Harvey victims last year.

While the vote did happen, the bill was part of broader negotiations that O’Rourke said at the time prompted his vote against it.

Here’s a deeper look at the bill at the center of Cruz’s attack and O’Rourke’s defense of his “no” vote.

Cruz’s attack

The 30-second spot called “Completely Ridiculous” is currently only available online. It opens with rescue footage and shots of Cruz meeting with storm victims, while highlighting Cruz’s support in the U.S. Senate for disaster relief funding and emergency tax relief for Harvey victims.

The ad then hits O’Rourke for voting against the tax relief measure.

“Congressman Beto O’Rourke? So irresponsible that he even voted against Hurricane Harvey tax relief,” the narrator says.

O’Rourke’s defense

Almost immediately after casting his vote against that bill last year, O’Rourke began defending his decision. The bill, which was later signed into law, allowed Harvey victims to receive tax deductions on personal losses from the storm and reduced penalties for withdrawing funds from retirement accounts to cover storm-related costs. But it was a sprawling piece of legislation that also included a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and other small health care programs.

In a post on Medium at the time, O’Rourke said he couldn’t support the bill because it didn’t include funding reauthorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Community Health Centers (CHC), which were both set to expire within days of the vote.

“Without returning this legislation for further improvement, I am not confident Congress would have reauthorized these programs,” he wrote.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday after an event in Austin, O’Rourke noted that he had “voted for more than $90 billion in aid for Hurricane Harvey victims” while in Congress. But the bill Cruz is highlighting in his latest ad was not a good deal for those victims, O’Rourke said.

“As you know, that tax break was a fraction of what was afforded to those who were recovering from Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast,” O’Rourke said. “That tax break was included in FAA reauthorization that failed to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program upon which hundreds of thousands of Texas children and families depend. And so we were there for those hit by Harvey, but we were also there for those kids who need to make sure they can receive that medication, see a therapist, get to a doctor – because it’ll literally make a life-or-death difference for them.”

Though O’Rourke claims Sandy victims received bigger tax breaks than those proposed for Harvey victims in this bill, Sandy victims did not get any such federal tax breaks, according to Politifact Texas and NBC News.

Cruz highlighted and mocked O’Rourke’s claim regarding Sandy victims Wednesday evening. On Thursday, O’Rourke’s campaign acknowledged he had misspoken in referencing Superstorm Sandy – both in his blog post at the time of the vote and this week speaking to reporters. A spokesman for the El Paso Democrat said O’Rourke meant to say that the tax breaks offered to Harvey victims were less generous than those offered to victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

More context

The relief package at issue came to the House floor just two months after Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare failed. At the time, federal health care programs were again in the spotlight as the end of the government’s fiscal year loomed and key health programs were up against a deadline to be reauthorized. Senate Republicans were also making a last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare while Democrats in the House and Senate were pushing for the renewal of CHIP and CHC funding, all just days before the end of the fiscal year.

“The recent debate on health care in our country has only reinforced the need for quality, affordable care,” O’Rourke wrote at the time. “That simply will not be possible without these two programs that so many children and families in El Paso rely on.”

After an initial House vote on the bill failed, it passed on a second try on a 264-155 vote. All Texas Republicans and most Texas Democrats voted in favor of the measure. Four Texas Democrats voted against it, including O’Rourke. U.S. Reps. Sam Johnson, R-Richardson, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, didn’t vote.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Author: ANDREW EVERSDEN – The Texas Tribune

Beto O’Rourke Says He’ll Start Airing TV Ads With Money Raised off Ted Cruz’s attack ads

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, is set to start airing TV ads in his race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke’s campaign told supporters Monday that it has placed a “$1.27 million media buy” and voters will start seeing “positive TV ads” in 20 Texas markets this week. The dollar amount represents how much O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman, raised two weekends ago in response to Cruz’s first round of TV ads, three of which targeted the challenger.

“Texans in all 254 counties of our state are proving that together, we will be the big, bold, confident answer to the small, petty, negative attacks that are coming our way,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

Whether O’Rourke would air TV ads in the race — and if so, how extensively — has been something of an open question for months. He has expressed ambivalence about the effectiveness of TV ads nowadays and talked about investing heavily in a field operation instead.

In July, O’Rourke released his first ad, a minute-long montage of his travels across the state as livestreamed on Facebook. The spot has been appearing only online.

O’Rourke’s campaign did not immediately say what the content of the TV ads would be other than that they would be positive.

Cruz’s first TV ads came out Aug. 3. O’Rourke’s campaign sought to counter them with a $1 million fundraising drive over the following weekend and ended up exceeding the target by that Sunday night, raking in $1,274,528.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Proposes 5 Debates with Beto O’Rourke in U.S. Senate Race

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has challenged Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourketo five topical debates before Election Day, about three months after O’Rourke challenged Cruz to six.

Cruz strategist Jeff Roe sent a letter Wednesday to O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman, proposing the following debate schedule:

  • Aug. 31 in Dallas on “Jobs/Taxes/Federal Regulations/National Economy”
  • Sept. 14 in McAllen on “Immigration/Border Security/Criminal Justice/Supreme Court”
  • Sept. 21 in San Antonio on “Foreign Policy/National Security”
  • Oct. 5 in Houston on “Energy/Trade/Texas Economy”
  • Oct. 12 in Lubbock on “Healthcare/Obamacare”

Roe said the debates would all take place on Friday evenings “because the Senate is expected to be in session during that time.” The debates would each be an hour long and vary in format — some would be town hall-style, while others would feature the two candidates seated or standing at podiums.

“As Senator Cruz has long believed, our democratic process is best served by presenting a clear and substantive contrast of competing policy ideas, and these five debates will be an excellent way for both you and the Senator to share your respective visions with Texas voters in the weeks leading up to the November election,” Roe wrote to O’Rourke.

O’Rourke responded in a statement to reporters: “I am encouraged that Sen. Cruz has decided that he’s ready to debate the issues. Our campaign looks forward to working with his campaign to finalize mutually agreed upon details.”

The five debates would be the most ever conducted in a U.S. Senate race in Texas, according to the Cruz campaign. A spokesperson described the proposal as “all inclusive and final,” saying the Cruz campaign is not open to negotiating the dates, locations or topics. Cruz’s team, however, is willing to work with O’Rourke’s on other details such as moderators, sponsorships and media partners, the spokesperson said.

Cruz has long expressed openness to debating O’Rourke, but his campaign has resisted making commitments until now. O’Rourke’s campaign first reached outto Cruz’s in April to start coordinating a debate schedule. The letter to senior Cruz staffers proposed six debates, including two in Spanish, and asked for a response by May 10. Though Cruz’s team did not respond directly to O’Rourke’s, Cruz told reporters at the time that his Spanish wasn’t good enough for him to debate in it.

After about two months passed without a formal reply, O’Rourke’s campaign sent another letter to Cruz’s senior staffers, nudging them on the initial proposal and offering to replace the two Spanish debates with two more English debates. Cruz’s team responded with a letter that reiterated he was looking forward to debating O’Rourke.

“However, your arbitrary timeline for coordinating between the campaigns remains irrelevant to our decision-making process,” senior Cruz adviser Bryan English wrote. “We will let you know when we are ready to discuss the details of joint appearances.”

Author: PATRICK SVITEK –  The Texas Tribune

O’Rourke Says He’s “Very, very Proud of my Mom” After Ted Cruz Brings up Her Tax Fraud Case

The U.S. Senate race between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke took a personal turn Wednesday when Cruz’s campaign accused his Democratic opponent of ignoring his “mom’s tax fraud” while encouraging changes in tax laws to require businesses to charge sales tax on more online purchases.

Charlotte’s Furniture, owned by Melissa O’Rourke, was found guilty in 2010 of breaking tax laws five years earlier by accepting cash to avoid reporting payments to tax authorities.

Beto O’Rourke has a stake worth between $1 and $5 million in the shopping center where the El Paso store was located, according to congressional records, which Cruz argued ties the congressman from El Paso to the tax fraud.

The store was fined $500,000 and ultimately agreed to pay $250,000, the El Paso Times reported. Melissa O’Rourke closed the store in 2017, shortly before her son launched his campaign for U.S. Senate. She told the El Paso Times at the time that the store’s closure was unrelated to her son’s decision to run.

Beto O’Rourke told the El Paso Times on Wednesday that the “store made a mistake and the issue was resolved” and that he did not want to engage with Cruz’s personal attacks.

“The bottom line is that I’m very, very proud of my mom,” he added, talking to the Times. “I love her more than I can say and I’m very grateful for everything that she does, including for her entire life running that store, which her mom started in 1951.”

An O’Rourke campaign spokesman referred The Texas Tribune to the Times’ story when asked for comment.

Texas Democratic Party Deputy Executive Director Manny Garcia condemned Cruz’s statement in a news release, calling the senator “the epitome of the sick politician that will say and do anything to cling to power.”

“Ted’s cheap shots smell of desperation. His shameless tactics are exhibit A on why people turn away from politics,” Garcia continued in the statement. “But what else can we expect from the man that cowered and endorsed Trump after vile attacks on his wife and father.”

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested during the 2016 presidential election that he had “dirt” on Cruz’s wife and that Cruz’s father was connected to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cruz condemned Trump’s statements at the time as “classless,” calling him a “coward.”

The Cruz campaign’s latest attack follows a Dallas Morning News story in which O’Rourke said he supported having businesses collect sales tax for revenues across state lines, a measure Cruz fiercely opposes. O’Rourke said in the interview that doing so could halt increasing property taxes and protect local businesses. Cruz said taxing across state lines would hinder online-focused mom-and-pop businesses from flourishing.

“His recent statements advocating that local businesses become tax collection agents for every state in the nation stand in stark contrast to his mother’s history of tax evasion,” Cruz’s campaign said in its news release.

Currently, online retailers only need to collect sales taxes in the states where they have a physical presence. The two candidates spoke as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on a case related to the issue.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Melissa O’Rourke pleaded guilty to a tax violation. Her store was charged as a corporate entity.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: MATTHEW CHOI – The Texas Tribune

Marijuana Legalization, War on Drugs Emerge as Issues in Race Between O’Rourke, Cruz

The U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke is trending into new territory: the war on drugs.

It is a familiar topic for O’Rourke, a Democratic congressman who has earned a national reputation as an advocate for marijuana legalization since his days on the El Paso City Council. Yet it hadn’t become an issue in the Senate contest until now, as Cruz, the Republican incumbent, ramps up his general election crusade to paint O’Rourke as too liberal for Texas.

Cruz opened the new front Tuesday as he seized on a story published by the Daily Caller, a conservative news site, that claimed O’Rourke “once advocated for the legalization of all narcotics.” The story cited an episode on the El Paso City Council in 2009 where O’Rourke successfully — and controversially — amended a resolution about the war on drugs to urge for an “honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.”

“Reasonable minds, perhaps, can differ on whether marijuana should be illegal, but what Congressman O’Rourke introduced was a resolution for the City Council to take up legalizing all narcotics, legalizing everything, legalizing heroin, legalizing deadly opioids,” Cruz told reporters after a campaign event in San Antonio as his Twitter account sent out a similar line of attack. “As this country is facing a crisis — an opioid crisis … and in light of that growing tragedy, Congressman O’Rourke’s radical proposal to legalize all narcotics is a suggestion that might be very popular up at Berkeley. It might be popular in far-left circles, but it doesn’t reflect the values of Texans. Texans don’t want to see heroin and deadly opioids legalized and our kids able to just walk in to the corner store and buy them.”

Despite Cruz’s telling, the resolution did not explicitly call for legalizing all drugs but rather for a conversation about it. O’Rourke said as much at a Jan. 6, 2009, council meeting, video of which accompanied the Daily Caller story.

“I’m not saying that we need to do that – to end the prohibition,” O’Rourke said. “I think we need to have a serious discussion about doing that, and that may, in the end, be the right course of action.”

The resolution was ultimately vetoed by the mayor, John Cook, after he received pressure from elected officials worried that it could cause El Paso to lose out on federal resources. Among them was U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, who lobbied the council to vote against a subsequent effort to override Cook’s veto. Reyes, whom O’Rourke would unseat a few years later, got his way: The veto override effort was unsuccessful, though O’Rourke still voted for it.

O’Rourke would later concede that the language in the controversial amendment could have been handled better.

“It was an artless and even inaccurate amendment to the larger resolution (I only learned later that marijuana is not a narcotic, even though it was precisely that drug that I felt people would be most open to debating), but it got the point across,” O’Rourke wrote in his 2011 book, “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico,” which made the case for ending the federal prohibition on marijuana.

The attack is not new to O’Rourke, who faced it as he battled Reyes in 2012, ultimately dislodging the eight-term incumbent in a bitter primary. Reyes ran an ad that showed a group of young children shouting “no” and expressing disbelief as text on the screen claimed O’Rourke “wants to legalize drugs.” The fact-checking site PolitiFact rated that claim “Half True” at the time.

O’Rourke has not made marijuana legalization a major part of his U.S. Senate campaign. But at town halls and other campaign events, he does not shy away from the topic when the discussion turns toward it or when he is directly asked about it.

Such was the case Saturday morning as O’Rourke made a campaign stop in Sonora, a small city on the western edge of the Hill Country. Soon after he slid into a booth with patrons at a donut shop, he was fielding questions for several minutes about marijuana legalization.

“I’m on a bill that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana once and for all,” O’Rourke told them, later lamenting that the United States is “spending on that war on drugs right now when we could put it into the classroom, into teacher pay, into treating an opioid epidemic, a methamphetamine epidemic that I’m seeing through lots of West Texas right now.”

Cruz, for his part, has long maintained marijuana legalization should be left up to the states, though he personally opposes it. He reiterated that position while speaking with reporters Tuesday in San Antonio.

“I don’t support drug legalization,” Cruz said. “I think drug legalization ends up harming people. I think it particularly hurts young people. It traps them in addiction.”

On marijuana, Cruz added: “I’ve always said that should be a question for the states. I think different states can resolve it differently. So in Texas — if we were voting on it in Texas — I would vote against legalizing it. But I think it’s the prerogative of Texans to make that decision, and I think another state like Colorado can make a very different decision.”

While O’Rourke did not directly respond Tuesday to Cruz’s criticism over the council resolution, the El Paso congressman — coincidentally, apparently — got the endorsement on the same day of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The group, which supported O’Rourke when he first ran for Congress, hailed him as a “true champion for abolishing our disastrous prohibition on marijuana since the very beginning of his political career as a city council member in El Paso.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Beto O’Rourke Wants to Debate Ted Cruz 6 Times, Including Twice in Spanish

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, has invited U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to participate in six debates with O’Rourke across Texas, two of them in Spanish, during their U.S. Senate race.

O’Rourke campaign manager Jody Casey made the proposal in a letter last week to Cruz’s senior staff, adding that the debates should have “media reach to all twenty markets in the state.”

“I would like to begin direct coordination of the debates with your campaign team between now and May 10th,” Casey wrote to Cruz advisers Bryan English and Eric Hollander in the April 24 letter. “Please advise my best point of contact on the Cruz campaign team.”

Cruz previously suggested he is open to debating O’Rourke. Cruz’s campaign said in response to the letter that it was exploring its options.

“Sen. Cruz has said he’s looking forward to debates,” Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said in a statement. “We are considering all possibilities in front of us and will be working with potential hosts and the O’Rourke campaign to determine the best platforms available so that Texans from all corners of the state can hear from the candidates directly about their views for Texas’ future.”

Regardless of what the campaigns ultimately agree to, debates in Spanish between the candidates seem unlikely. While O’Rourke is fluent in the language, Cruz is not known as a proficient speaker.

After a campaign event Tuesday afternoon in San Antonio, Cruz admitted to reporters that his Spanish “remains lousy” before offering a sentence in the language: “I understand almost everything, but I can’t speak like I want to.” Cruz, whose father came to America from Cuba, chalked up his shoddy Spanish skills to “the curse of the second-generation immigrant,” adding that he suspects many in the Hispanic community can relate.

“A debate in Spanish would not be very good because my Spanish isn’t good enough, but I look forward to debating Congressman O’Rourke,” Cruz said.

Still, Cruz has professed little resistance to sparring with O’Rourke so far. Asked in March if he would debate O’Rourke, Cruz told reporters he is “sure we’ll see a debate in this race.” Cruz noted that he debated U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., multiple times on national TV last year before adding, “I am not remotely afraid to debate left-wing liberal socialists.”

During a conference call with supporters Thursday, O’Rourke alluded to the letter while fielding a question about whether there will be a debate between him and Cruz.

“We certainly want a debate,” O’Rourke said, adding that his campaign is working to “make sure that we give every voter in Texas the opportunity to know the difference between the two candidates, their track record of service, what they hope to achieve for the state of Texas and the way in which they are campaigning.”

O’Rourke suggested he was undeterred by Cruz’s past as a college debate champion and a lawyer who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court nine times.

“While I know that Cruz is a master debater, a very skilled politician, a very shrewd person … I would love the opportunity to talk about what all of us have been doing together over the course of the campaign and what we want to achieve for Texas,” O’Rourke told supporters. “I’m very much looking forward to it.”

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Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

New Poll finds Race Between Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke “Too Close to Call”

WASHINGTON — A new poll released Wednesday suggests the U.S. Senate race between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke is far more competitive than many political observers have initially thought.

The poll from Quinnipiac University shows the two men in a dead heat: 47 percent of registered voters in Texas support Cruz, the Republican incumbent, while 43 percent back O’Rourke, an El Paso Democrat.

That number falls within the poll’s 3.6 percent margin of error.

The poll had another ominous warning for the GOP: President Donald Trump was underwater in Texas, with 52 percent of respondents disapproving of him and 43 percent approving of his job performance.

Cruz’s favorability rating showed a polarized response: 46 percent of Texans have a favorable view of the senator while 44 percent have an unfavorable view.

O’Rourke had a positive favorability rating – 30 percent of those who responded viewed him positively while 16 percent had a negative view. This indicates a large swath of Texans do not know who he is and leaves much room for both Republicans and Democrats to define him in the coming months.

Gov. Greg Abbott had far better standing among Texans than either Cruz or Trump. Fifty-four percent of Texans approve of the job he is doing, while 33 percent do not approve.

The pollsters also surveyed Texas voters about both of the Democrats vying to face Abbott in November. Abbott leads former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez 49 percent to 41 percent. Similarly, he leads Democrat Andrew White 48 percent to 41 percent. A May 22 Democratic primary runoff will determine whether Valdez or White is the party’s nominee.

To be sure, no one poll should be taken as gospel on the state of any race. Various factors can produce an outlier result, and the sample included registered voters, which is a less-narrow field of respondents compared to likely voters.

Even so, Quinnipiac is one of the most highly regarded polling outfits in politics, in part due to its use of live interviews over cell phones and landlines.

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Beto O’Rourke: Ted Cruz and Donald Trump “Want you to be afraid of Mexicans”

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, lit into U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and President Donald Trump during an interview in Waco on Tuesday, suggesting the two Republicans were inciting fear in Texas voters.

“Let me tell you what the president and our junior senator are doing right now,” he said at an event hosted by The Texas Tribune. O’Rourke was being interviewed by the Tribune’s CEO, Evan Smith. “They want you to be afraid of Mexicans. When they call them rapists and criminals, and say only a wall will keep them out.”

O’Rourke is challenging Cruz in the November election. During the interview, he often referred to Cruz as “our junior senator,” rather than by name. And he criticized Cruz and Trump on their positions regarding LGBT people.

“And that … is bullshit, and we’ve got to be bigger and stronger and more courageous than that,” he added. “And I know that we are. I know that we are.”

Cruz responded on Twitter later Tuesday: “Liberal Dems — like Hillary and @BetoORourke — say anyone who wants to secure the border and end sanctuary cities must be a bigot and ‘hate Mexicans.’ That’s a nasty insult directed at millions of Texans who welcome legal immigrants (like my Dad), but also respect rule of law.”

The remarks come the same day O’Rourke’s campaign said it raised $6.7 millionin the first quarter of 2018. He said 70 percent of that money was raised within the state. Cruz has yet to release his fundraising haul for the same time period.

At the same time, O’Rourke addressed criticism that he failed to consolidate Democratic support on the March 6 primary, when he lost more than a handful of counties to underfunded challengers.

“We finished 38 points ahead of the closest finisher,” he said. “Many in Texas, perhaps most, still did not at that point — maybe still do not today — know who I am, and that’s on me to do.”

He then stressed that he spent a great deal of time away from the state’s Democratic strongholds, courting votes in conservative and rural bastions.

“The strategy leading up to the March 6 primary was really a much longer strategy leading up to the November 6 general election,” he added. “You will see me far more often in the border than you have seen me so far.”

On the issue of guns, O’Rourke said he does not own firearms, but does not “want to take anyone’s guns” or repeal the Second Amendment.

“In the five-and-a-half years I’ve been in Congress, we’ve had precisely zero debates on gun safety as tens of thousands of our fellow Americans are killed every year in gun violence,” he said.

“We still don’t have universal background checks, so millions of gun sales are going through without any background check whatsoever right now — even though we know that, in those states that have adopted them, we see a 50 percent reduction in gun violence against an intimate partner.”

As for the tax rate, O’Rourke said that the country is in need of infrastructure investments, particularly in broadband internet to rural regions, and that tax hikes might be needed.

“I think for some, the very wealthiest among us, for corporations, taxes are too low,” he said. “I don’t think they need to be raised back to where they were necessarily.”

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Authors: ABBY LIVINGSTON AND HALEY SAMSEL – The Texas Tribune

Beto O’Rourke Says he Raised Staggering $6.7M in First Quarter of 2018

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, raised over $6.7 million for his U.S. Senate bid in the first quarter of 2018, according to his campaign, a staggering number that poses a new category of threat to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

The haul is easily O’Rourke’s biggest fundraising quarter yet, more than double his next-closest total for a three-month period. It also is more than any Democratic Senate candidate nationwide took in last quarter, O’Rourke’s campaign said.

Cruz has not released his first-quarter fundraising numbers yet, but O’Rourke’s $6.7 million total is on a different level than his previous hauls, which ranged from $1.7 million to $2.4 million. Those alone were good enough to outraise Cruz for three of the last four reporting periods.

Furthermore, the $6.7 million total came from more than 141,000 contributions — another record-busting number for O’Rourke.

“Campaigning in a grassroots fashion while raising more than $6.7 million from 141,000 contributions, we are the story of a campaign powered by people who are standing up to special interests, proving that we are more than a match and making it clear that Texans are willing to do exactly what our state and country need of us at this critical time,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

O’Rourke’s campaign released the fundraising statistics Tuesday morning ahead of the April 15 deadline to report it to the Federal Election Commission. Cruz has not offered any numbers for the full quarter, though he disclosed raising $803,000 through the first 45 days of the year — a fraction of O’Rourke’s $2.3 million for the same timeframe.

On Tuesday morning, O’Rourke’s team did not volunteer its cash-on-hand figure, but the $6.7 million raised is likely to go a long way toward closing his deficit with Cruz in money to spend. As of mid-February, O’Rourke had $4.9 million in the bank to Cruz’s $6 million.

O’Rourke unveiled the $6.7 million figure on the second day of a three-day, 12-city trip by Cruz to mark the official start of his re-election campaign. O’Rourke is also hitting the road — he plans to hold town halls in 15 cities over the next six days.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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In Money Race, Cruz and O’Rourke Taking Different Paths

WASHINGTON — A weird and wild U.S. Senate race could be shaping up in the state of Texas next year.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative stalwart who came in second in last year’s raucous fight for the Republican presidential nomination, is poised to face off against Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a former punk rocker from El Paso.

But it’s the two men’s worlds-apart approaches to campaign finance that could be what sets their race apart nationally and play a role in whether key national Republican and Democratic organizations choose to invest in the race next year.

U.S. Senate races are typically expensive beasts that fit into a complicated, multi-state strategy run out of Washington. Typically, a candidate in a competitive Senate race is expected to raise at least a million dollars a quarter. Earlier this month, both O’Rourke and Cruz reported raising nearly identical amounts, about $1.7 million apiece, with Cruz raising an additional approximate $300,000 through a joint committee and a leadership PAC.

In the context of one of the most expensive media markets in the country, that’s small change. Yet that O’Rourke can keep up with the incumbent shows an early enthusiasm for him that Democrats hope to see snowball in the coming months.

Aside from a candidate’s direct fundraising, U.S. Senate candidates usually hope to draw support from three other groups. First, there’s the Senate’s campaign arms, known as the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which may book millions in television advertising behind candidate if they view such efforts as worth the investment.

Then there’s political action committees and, added to the mix in recent years, an entire network of Super PACs that have no limit on donations and are often bankrolled by one or a few super-rich donors.

O’Rourke has made campaign finance reform a central part of his platform. He has vowed to not take any money from PACs, prompting derision from some campaign veterans who argue he’s giving up any serious chance of defeating Cruz, who proved in his 2016 presidential run to be a fundraising juggernaut.

But in an interview with The Texas Tribune, O’Rourke took his hard-line approach to campaign finance reform a step further, insisting that he hopes no millionaires or billionaires form an unaffiliated super PAC to sway the race for him.

“I’ll say that right now to anyone watching or listening: I don’t want super PACs involved.” he said. “I don’t want their help.”

“No candidates can coordinate [with super PACs], but they can raise money, but I will make a commitment to you right now that I won’t be a part of supporting, helping, fundraising, or a tacit endorsement of super PACs or people who try to work in an unaccountable way outside of the political process.”

That’s likely to set a sharp contrast from Cruz, who rose to power, in part, with support of super PACs and is expected to draw strong support from such groups next year. Groups like the Club for Growth Action super PAC spent big on his long-shot 2012 race for a U.S. Senate seat that catapulted him onto the national stage.

During his 2016 presidential run, a highly organized super PAC apparatus backed him, raising nearly $54 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

While it’s not clear national Democrats or other groups will bolster O’Rourke’s bid, Cruz is framing the race to supporters as if such involvement is inevitable.

“The Democrats want to win this seat so they can make Chuck Schumer majority leader,” Cruz said at Republican conference Friday in Dallas, referring to the Democrats’ leader in the Senate.

Speaking with the Tribune after the speech, Cruz pointed to the recent fundraising success of some Democratic candidates in Texas.

“The hard left is angry, and they’re energized,” Cruz said. “I think that underscores the need for Republicans to take seriously the electoral challenges.”

Is this a race?

Despite the enthusiasm around O’Rourke’s bid, a Texas Democrat hasn’t won statewide since 1994 and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and many like-minded national groups remain unlikely to invest in it. So is this even a race?

“A year out from an election, there is no need to declare an election over,” said Nathan Gonzales, the nonpartisan analyst with Inside Elections.

“2016 has taught us to leave our mind open to possibilities, but just looking at the map, there are arguably better and cheaper Democratic opportunities than Texas.”

Gonzales currently classifies Texas as “solid Republican” – his strongest rating in favor of the GOP.

Most outside observers agree this is not a competitive race. Plenty of national Democratic operatives and strategists say as much. Most Republicans underscore that “no” with emphasis: Heading into 2018, GOP operatives say they may be facing political problems in multiple states, but Texas ain’t one of them.

But some Democrats are watching O’Rourke and wondering: What if it is a race?

It’s fair to say former state Sen. Wendy Davis knows the usual Texas donors, going back to her 2014 race against now-Gov. Greg Abbott. She recently saw signs at an Austin fundraiser that O’Rourke’s campaign could fare better than her 20-point loss.

“I didn’t recognize a lot of people in there,” she said. “To me, that was a really good sign that people are stepping up.”

Yet even if O’Rourke can hold his own against Cruz in terms of fundraising, Democrats have not fielded a serious candidate for governor, and Abbott has tens of millions of dollars to support his re-election bid.

And Cruz is a former presidential candidate who raised more than $90 million in $2,700 or smaller increments. While he surely stumbled among his party’s base last year when he refused to endorse Donald Trump for president at the Republican National Convention, he’s made strides since then to consolidate support. In a change of pace from past campaigns, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a fellow Texan and the second-ranking Republican in the chamber, endorsed Cruz for re-election last month.

For now, Cruz only has a handful of mostly unknown Republicans either running or threatening to challenge him, including North Richland Hills-based Christian television executive Bruce Jacobson.

Chris Wilson, a Cruz operative who specializes in data analytics, argued against a major source of so much Democratic optimism – Trump’s win in Texas by a slimmer-than-historically-normal nine points.

“The difference between 2016 and 2018 is that there was not a statewide Republican campaign effort made in 2016 by Donald Trump or anyone else.”

A former Trump White House official, Steve Bannon, has promised to back a primary challenge against every Republican in the Senate except for Cruz. That’s created a volatile atmosphere in Washington. Democrats say they see strong indications that the GOP’s civil war and anti-Trump sentiment could put normally safe red states into play.

That could, actually, hurt any chance of O’Rourke earning unsolicited outside help.

This is the hardest map for Senate Democrats in recent memory. Florida, in particular, is expected to develop into an obscenely expensive battle to protect Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Democrats are already telegraphing that if they invest money in trying to flip Republican Senate seats, their key targets will be in Arizona and Nevada – far less expensive states than Texas.

O’Rourke, for his part, shrugs off the possibility of institutional Democratic support from Washington.

“I don’t know that there’s anything the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee can bring to this that the people of Texas can’t bring to this,” he said.

Gonzales, the political analyst, is watching the Texas race, but skeptically. What would it take for him to soften that “solid Republican” rating?

“An abundance of survey data that Democrats have a real opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “The senator can’t take the race for granted. O’Rourke’s going to run a credible campaign, but that doesn’t mean he’s on the cusp of victory.”

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Last week, Cruz and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders faced off in a debate on CNN over how to fix the U.S. tax code. [Full story]
  • O’Rourke has been letting f-bombs fly on the campaign trail. We made a video compilation. [Full story]
  • To beat Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke plans to throw out the Democratic playbook [Full story]

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

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