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Home | Tag Archives: texas senate race

Tag Archives: texas senate race

Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke Entered Congress at Same Time; Here’s What They Have Accomplished

Since launching his bid for U.S. Senate last year, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has painted Republican incumbent Ted Cruz as a senator whose national ambitions have distracted him from his Texas duties. Cruz has questioned what accomplishments the congressman from El Paso has to his name.

How exactly do the two men’s records stack up? Their legislative achievements are easy to compare, given that both men entered Congress on the same day — Jan. 3, 2013.

They both joined chambers out of their party’s control. Two years later, the Republicans regained control of the Senate, while the Democrats maintained their minority status in the House — as would be the case for all of O’Rourke’s three terms.

Since the pair entered Congress, Cruz has introduced 105 bills, compared to the 65 bills O’Rourke has introduced over the same period, according to Congress.gov. The vast majority of those bills died in various stages of the legislative process, which is often the case with most legislation.

Cruz has passed five Senate bills into law, including bills authored and incorporated into larger legislation, according to GovTrack, an organization that tracks member voting and legislative data. Not included in the GovTrack count is a Cruz bill that requires hot air balloon pilots to undergo medical exams. That measure passed as part of a FAA reauthorization bill the Senate sent to President Donald Trump last month. Govtrack shows O’Rourke has passed three bills into law.

Obama years vs. Trump years

For their first four years in Congress, Obama was in the White House. According to GovTrack, O’Rourke passed two bills into law while the president of his same party held the Oval Office. His first bill continued tuition assistance programs for service members. That measure was included as part of a larger appropriations bill in 2013.

O’Rourke’s other bill under Obama named a federal courthouse in El Paso.

Cruz also authored a courthouse renaming bill that passed under House legislation, one of three pieces of legislation he passed under Obama. GovTrack credits congressional members with passage if they’ve sponsored companion bills that passed into law. Another successful measure prohibited the U.S. from giving visas to U.N diplomats that previously engaged in terrorist or espionage activities against the United States. The bill came in response to Iran naming a U.N ambassador that was tied to the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

When the Republicans took the Senate back in 2015, Cruz became chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space. In that position, he shepherded the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act through Congress. The bill, intended to encourage the development of the commercial space sector, originally passed as House legislation, but Cruz authored the companion bill in the Senate.

With Trump in the White House, O’Rourke managed to get his Express Appeals Act signed into law as part of a larger measure. The legislation directed the veteran affairs secretary to start a pilot program that provided veterans with an alternative and faster route to appeal for disability compensation.

Meanwhile, Cruz has had three bills enacted under Trump. The first was a bill reauthorizing NASA that passed the Senate unanimously. The second was a measure to give tax breaks to victims of three hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — a measure that was incorporated into a larger House relief package that the president signed. Most recently, Cruz had his hot air balloon safety bill included in larger legislation.

But legislative records are not the sole measure of productivity. Because it is difficult to get legislation enacted on their own, members routinely push for certain provisions to be included in larger bills, particularly through amendment processes both on the floor and in committee mark-ups. They also spend time fighting measures they oppose.

“(With) the way that Congress operates these days, much of it’s gonna be pieces of legislation rather than whole bills because now, the past two years in particular, Congress has done very little,” said Rich Cohen, co-author of The Almanac of American Politics from 2001 through 2010. “When Congress does act, the legislation often is comprehensive … They’re big bills and there’s a lot going on in them so it shouldn’t be surprising that someone would take credit for a part of a bill rather than a whole bill.”

Committee work is also a measure of productivity. Both Cruz and O’Rourke sit on their respective chamber’s Armed Services Committee. Cohen said neither committee churns out much legislation, but rather spends much of its time working on a massive yearly Pentagon spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Provisions members get included in those bills don’t necessarily show up on their legislative record. A list on the Cruz campaign’s website details 34 legislative accomplishments includes 23 provisions he got included into different NDAAs over his six years. And in several posts on O’Rourke’s Medium blog, he has mentioned multiple items he pushed for inclusion. But it’s not simple to verify either lawmaker’s efforts in larger bills.

“It’s awfully difficult … to prove it or challenge it one way or another,” Cohen said. “It’s the opposite of transparent. It’s difficult to figure out what happened when you have this 1,000 page bill with lots of moving pieces.”

Top three accomplishments

The Texas Tribune asked both Cruz and O’Rourke to provide the three legislative accomplishments of which they are most proud.

The O’Rourke campaign passed along three measures that the El Paso Democrat saw signed into law by Trump.

  • Expanding Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care

O’Rourke was the primary sponsor of the “Honor Our Commitment Act,” which expanded mental health care through the VA to veterans with “other-than-honorable” discharges from the military. The measure was included an omnibus spending bill in March. In a blog post a year earlier, O’Rourke said the legislation was needed because “(20) veterans a day are committing suicide, and 14 of those we know are not receiving healthcare from the VA.”

  • Requiring Mental Health Screenings for Separating Service Members

Tucked deep within the NDAA for the last fiscal year is an O’Rourke measure mandating that service members leaving the military receive a mental health examination, in addition to the already required exit physical exam.

“Ensuring that our service members receive comprehensive mental healthcare evaluations prior to returning to civilian life is critically important because doing so increases the chances we get veterans the treatment they need,” O’Rourke said in a blog post when the bill was added to the NDAA.

  • Permanently Protecting Castner Range

In last year’s annual defense spending bill, O’Rourke got a provision included to permanently protect the Castner Range, nearly 7,000 acres of land surrounded by the Franklin Mountains around El Paso. The provision was signed into law by Trump as part of a larger defense spending package. The bill prevents any commercial development in a space that O’Rourke said environmental activists have been fighting to preserve since 1971.

“This is an incredible opportunity to ensure that we pass on Castner Range, and all that it means to us as a country, to not just this generation but the generations that follow,” O’Rourke said in a floor speech at the time. He also has a pending bill to designate the range as a national monument.

In response to the request for three top legislative accomplishments, the Cruz campaign sent nine. Here’s a sample:

  • Hurricane tax relief

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Cruz pushed for tax break legislation for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The Cruz-led legislation ultimately was included in the final, larger relief bill that passed through both chambers and was signed into law by the president.

Cruz has used this legislation to attack O’Rourke’s voting record because O’Rourke voted against passage of the bill. O’Rourke has defended his vote by saying that the final bill didn’t have tax breaks as generous as those given to victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

  • Purple Hearts for Fort Hood victims

In late 2014, Obama signed an NDAA that included a Cruz provision allowing victims of the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood to be eligible for Purple Hearts. Thirteen people died in the attack.

“This designation is long overdue for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting and their families who deserve our prayers and support in dealing with this horrific act of terrorism,” said Cruz when the amendment was announced.

  • U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

Cruz was the primary sponsor of this 2015 bill in the Senate, which was a companion to the House bill that ultimately passed. This bill prevented the federal government from introducing further regulation on the commercial space industry for seven and a half years. The bill also reauthorized use of the International Space Station through 2024.

“This legislation makes a commitment to supporting the continued development of a strong commercial space sector and recognizes the major stake Texas has in space exploration,” Cruz said in a statement at 2015.

Cruz is the chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness and is from Houston, home to NASA.

The filibuster and the sit-in

Both Cruz and O’Rourke have had moments in Congress that elevated their profiles nationally.

For Cruz, it came just months into his first term, in which his outspoken opposition to the Affordable Care Act placed him at the center of a contentious government shutdown that lasted over two weeks and left many Republicans upset with him. Amid the efforts by congressional leaders to avoid a shutdown in September 2013, Cruz seized on an opportunity to speak on the Senate floor for 21 hours to highlight his opposition to the sweeping health care law.

But when he wasn’t railing against Obamacare, Cruz strayed off topic to keep the clock running on what is now the fourth-longest speech in U.S. Senate history. Most notoriously, the freshman senator read Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” from the floor.

On the south side of Capitol Hill, O’Rourke presided over his own marathon political gamesmanship three years later. Shortly after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor to protest the Republicans’ decision not to bring gun control legislation to a vote. When the Democrats staged their sit-in however, House Republicans adjourned, resulting in C-SPAN turning off its live cameras and leaving interested Americans without an option to watch the remainder of the sit-in.

But O’Rourke quickly found a way around the situation by using his phone to broadcast the sit-in live over Facebook with a fellow congressman, according to the El Paso Times. O’Rourke’s broadcasts were picked up by C-SPAN and CNN while the Democrats held the House floor for over 24 hours. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberglater said that the Facebook Live streams related to the sit-in reached 3 million people.

Author:  ANDREW EVERSDEN – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Leads Beto O’Rourke by 5 Among Likely Voters in U.S. Senate Race, New Poll Finds

Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz leads U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, by 5 percentage points among likely voters in a new Ipsos online poll released Wednesday in conjunction with Reuters and the University of Virginia.

A September Ipsos poll showed O’Rourke ahead of Cruz by 2 percentage points among likely voters.

According to the newly released poll, 49 percent of respondents said they would vote for Cruz, while 44 percent said they would vote for O’Rourke; 3 percent said they would vote for someone other than O’Rourke or Cruz, and 1 percent said they wouldn’t vote.

The online poll of about 2,000 Texans over the age of 18 was conducted October 12-18. Ipsos online polls do not have margins of error; instead, the poll’s precision is measured using a “credibility interval.” This poll’s credibility interval was +/-3.1 percentage points among likely voters.

Other recent polls have also shown Cruz in the lead. A Quinnipiac University phone poll of 730 likely voters from earlier this month put Cruz ahead of O’Rourke by 9 percentage points.

Respondents cared most about immigration and health care in the Wednesday Ipsos poll. They saw Cruz as a better candidate to address issues relating to unemployment and jobs, health care, immigration and the Supreme Court, while they favored O’Rourke for environmental issues and social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

The poll also asked respondents whether they saw Cruz and O’Rourke as “traditional” politicians: 78 percent said they perceived Cruz as traditional. That number is up from 76 percent recorded in the September Ipsos poll. Only 32 percent saw O’Rourke as traditional, which did not change from September.

In the Texas gubernatorial race, the poll found that Gov. Greg Abbott leads his Democratic challenger, Lupe Valdez, by 15 percentage points — up from 9 percentage points in the September poll.

Author: MATT ZDUN – The Texas Tribune

UPDATE: Donald Trump’s Houston Rally with Ted Cruz Moved to Bigger Venue

President Donald Trump’s rally Monday in Houston with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has been moved to a bigger venue.

Originally set to take place at the NRG Arena, the event will now be held at the Toyota Center, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale announced in a tweet Thursday afternoon, describing the demand for tickets as “HUGE and unprecedented.” The Toyota Center can hold about twice as many people as NRG Arena — roughly 10,000 versus 19,000.

Trump set expectations high set two months ago, when he announced he would come to Texas in October to hold a rally with Cruz at the “biggest stadium we can find.” Neither NRG Arena nor the Toyota Center are among the state’s largest venues.

The rally is set to begin at 6:30 p.m., and is set to also feature remarks from Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Beto O’Rourke Swings Harder at Ted Cruz in Second Debate

SAN ANTONIO — In the lead-up to the U.S. Senate debate here Tuesday night, Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke heard from supporters who wanted him to take a more aggressive stance toward Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

It appears O’Rourke listened.

Over the hourlong event, the El Paso congressman took a series of harsher-than-usual swings at Cruz — including a couple of blows evocative of the senator’s battle with Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race.

“He’s dishonest,” O’Rourke said of Cruz at one point. “That’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted and it’s why the nickname stuck because it’s true.”

“It’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack,” Cruz shot back. “So if he wants to insult me and call me a liar, that’s fine.”

Trump, who is coming to Houston on Monday for a rally with Cruz, fueled a number of contentious exchanges during the debate at the studios of KENS 5, the CBS affiliate in San Antonio. Early on, O’Rourke accused Cruz of not being able to stand up to the president for Texans, while Cruz went on to dismiss the idea O’Rourke would be able to work with the president after expressing support for his impeachment. And “Lyin’ Ted” was not the only Trump-style insult aired in the debate, with O’Rourke telling Cruz multiple times that he was “all talk and no action.”

As O’Rourke hammered Cruz as more interested in his political career than representing Texas — “Ted Cruz is for Ted Cruz,” the challenger said at one point — Cruz pressed his long-running case that O’Rourke is captive to the activist left and too liberal for Texas. He also repeatedly cast O’Rourke as a key agitator if Democrats take Congress for the next two years under Trump.

“You want to talk about a shutdown?” Cruz said after O’Rourke raised Cruz’s leading role in the 2013 government shuttering. “With Congressman O’Rourke leading the way, [there’ll be] two years of a partisan circus and a witch hunt on the president.”

O’Rourke offered a deadpan response, telling Cruz it is “really interesting to hear you talk about a partisan circus after your last six years in the Senate.”

Cruz’s campaign argued O’Rourke’s more hostile performance was a reaction to recent spate of polls that show Cruz expanding his lead.

“When you’re down 10, you better do something, right? You better change the conversation,” Cruz strategist Jeff Roe told reporters after the debate. “When an unconventional candidate becomes conventional, that’s typically when they get split like a cantaloupe, and I think that’s what we’ll see.”

Cruz and O’Rourke, who first debated Sept. 21 in Dallas, may have sparred for the last time before Election Day when they took the stage in San Antonio. A debate that had been planned for Sept. 30 in Houston was postponed amid the battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it has not yet been rescheduled.

After the debate, O’Rourke was set to head to the Rio Grande Valley to participate in a CNN town hall Thursday in McAllen. Cruz declined to appear back-to-back at the event but has since sought to turn it into another debate.

Early voting begins Monday.

Read related Tribune coverage

Authors:  PATRICK SVITEK AND MATT ZDUN –  The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Leads Beto O’Rourke in New Poll by Nine Points

WASHINGTON — A new poll released Thursday morning showed Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has stabilized his lead over his Democrat challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.

Fifty-four percent of Texans backed Cruz, while 45 percent backed O’Rourke in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

As for each candidate’s images, 52 percent of Texans surveyed had a favorable view of Cruz, with 44 percent viewing him unfavorably. O’Rourke, however, was slightly under water in how Texans viewed him: 45 percent of respondents had a favorable view of O’Rourke, compared to 47 percent who view him unfavorably.

A September poll from the same outfit showed the same margin: a nine-point Cruz lead. While at times Quinnipiac had this race within the margin of error over the last year, the Cruz lead has stabilized in this and other polls to the high single digits.

This most recent poll was conducted Oct. 3-9.

The poll also took a snapshot of Texas’ gubernatorial race, showing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott with a prohibitive lead over his Democratic rival, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, 58 percent to 38 percent.

Strikingly, while Valdez and O’Rourke have consolidated support among African Americans, Abbott and Cruz garnered sizable Hispanic support. Cruz had the backing of 37 percent of Hispanic respondents while nearly half of Hispanics surveyed — 46 percent — supported Abbott.

Sixty-two percent of Texans viewed Abbott favorably while 32 percent of Texans had an unfavorable view of the governor. In contrast, Valdez — an underfunded candidate — is still largely unknown for this point in the cycle. Thirty-one percent of Texans had a positive view of Valdez and 29 percent had an unfavorable view of her.

The poll surveyed 730 likely voters, 730 using cell phone and landlines. The margin of error was 4.4 percent.

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke Debate Tonight at 5 p.m. Watch Here

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke are set to square off on the debate stage for the first time Friday evening in Dallas.

The 6 p.m. (5 p.m. Mountain) event at Southern Methodist University is the first of three hourlong debates, and it comes as polls continue to show a tight race between Cruz and O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman. On Friday morning, the Cook Political Report changed its rating of the race from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up.”

The Dallas debate is being presented by SMU, NBC 5/KXAS and The Dallas Morning News. It will be broadcast live on NBC 5/KXAS, its website and the Dallas Morning News’ website as well. The Texas Tribune will feature the livestream of the debate on this page.

The topic of the debate is domestic policy, and it will be moderated by NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine and Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers. Both candidates will stand at podiums before a 240-person audience.

The next two debates are scheduled for Sept. 30 in Houston and Oct. 16 in San Antonio. Early voting begins Oct. 22.

It was only a week ago that O’Rourke and Cruz had announced an agreement to hold three debates, capping weeks of negotiations between their campaigns.

O’Rourke first challenged Cruz to six debates in May, and while Cruz maintained he was open to debating his opponent, he did not formally respond until July. That is when Cruz proposed five topical debates over three months in five cities.

Among the issues that O’Rourke had with Cruz’s proposed debate schedule was every one fell on a Friday evening during high school football season. That will remain true for the Dallas debate, while the other two debates they ultimately agreed to are set for different days.

Disclosure: Southern Methodist University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author:  – 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

Report: Trump official says U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz Could Lose to U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke

President Donald Trump’s budget chief said Saturday that Republican U.S. Sen Ted Cruz could lose his seat in the November elections, suggesting that he is not likable enough, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times report, Mick Mulvaney, the leader of the Office of Management and Budget and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said at a closed-door meeting with Republican donors in New York City that he did not believe in the existence of a “blue wave” of Democrats overtaking many Republican-held seats but that Cruz may be in trouble.

“There’s a very real possibility we will win a race for Senate in Florida and lose a race in Texas for Senate, O.K.?” Mulvaney said, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the Times. “I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s a possibility. How likable is a candidate? That still counts.”

Cruz, who’s held the Senate seat since 2013, is facing U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, in the November election. O’Rourke has outraised Cruz so far, and recent polls have put the two almost neck and neck.

To further his point on a candidate’s likability, Mulvaney mentioned last year’s special election for Senate in Alabama, when Republican Roy Moore, a former judge accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, lost to his Democratic opponent.

The story on Mulvaney’s comments was published while Cruz was holding a campaign event in Humble. Speaking with reporters afterward, he said he had not seen the articles yet and thus did not have an immediate comment.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Author: JOLIE MCCULLOUGH – 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’s NFL Comments Have Gone Viral. Here’s How it Can Impact his Texas Race

Since 2016, Texas Republicans have been spoiling for a fight over NFL players protesting during the national anthem, confident they have a winning issue on their hands — or at least one that will fire up their voters.

That fight has now arrived in the state’s 2018 U.S. Senate race.

A video of the Democratic nominee, Beto O’Rourke, recently voicing support for the protests has gone viral, earning hundreds of thousands of social media shares and garnering praise from Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes. The Republican incumbent, Ted Cruz, and his allies have seized on O’Rourke’s position to press their long-running argument that despite the national fanfare, O’Rourke is out of step with the Texans who will actually decide the election.

There has not been any recent public polling in Texas gauging support specifically for the protests, which participating players have said are meant to bring attention to police brutality and racial injustice in the United States. But multiple University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls have provided some indications about how Texans feel about the controversy.

  • In June, with the debate over the player protests still raging, a UT/TT survey discovered a plurality of voters — 47 percent — had an unfavorable opinion of the NFL, vs. 26 percent who felt favorably about the league.
  • In October 2017, as President Donald Trump was sharply criticizing players over the protests, a UT/TT poll found more Texas voters disapproved of Trump’s handling of the situation than approved of it, 50 percent to 40 percent.
  • In October 2016, as the protests were beginning to gain attention, a UT/TT poll found that the Black Lives Matter movement, which is largely allied with the protesting players, had a poor image in Texas, with voters having an unfavorable view of it by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

In a blog post Wednesday, UT/TT pollster Jim Henson suggested the numbers show O’Rourke’s position is anything but a clear-cut political winner in Texas.

“While it’s too soon to judge O’Rourke’s national prospects — despite the natural eagerness to discover the Next Big Thing — the response on Political Twitter illustrates that in moments like his Houston comments (and many others on a growing list), O’Rourke looks a lot like a national Democratic candidate,” Henson wrote. “Relevant attitudes in Texas, however, suggest that he still has a rough schedule to get through before he graduates to the pros.”

The political fervor over the national players protests is nothing new for top Texas Republicans, who have seized on them to varying degrees since they began in 2016. Cruz has been especially vocal, bashing the protesting players last year as “rich, spoiled athletes disrespecting the flag.”

The saga in the Senate race began Aug. 10 at an O’Rourke town hall in Houston, where the candidate fielded a question from a man who said he came from a family of veterans and found it “incredibly frustrating that people seem to be OK with” the player protests. The man asked O’Rourke: Do you find it disrespectful?

“My short answer is no, I don’t think it’s disrespectful,” O’Rourke replied, offering a preface before giving his long answer: “Reasonable people can disagree on this issue — let’s begin there — and it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue.”

O’Rourke went on to offer a lengthy recollection of civil rights struggles in the United States, the sacrifices Americans have made for those rights and the more recent national conversation surrounding police shootings of unarmed black men.

“And so nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it,” O’Rourke concluded. “That is why they are doing it, and I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

The next weekend at a campaign stop in Corpus Christi, Cruz brought up O’Rourke’s comments while responding to a question about respect for police.

“[O’Rourke] gave a long, long answer that ended with, he quote ‘couldn’t think of anything more American’ than kneeling to protest the national anthem,” Cruz said, recalling the patriotism he said he saw during a recent tour of Texas military bases. “The contrast of every person there having that respect — you know, when Beto O’Rourke says he can’t think of anything more American, I’ve got to admit — I can. Those soldiers, those sailors, those airmen, those Marines, who fought and bled to protect the flag — yeah, that’s something more American.”

The issue appear to cool off for a few days — until Tuesday afternoon, when the website NowThisNews tweeted the video of O’Rourke’s comments, set to dramatic music and accompanied by a caption saying O’Rourke “brilliantly explains why NFL players kneeling during the anthem is not disrespectful.” The tweet quickly racked up over 100,000 retweets and got the attention of people like talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who told O’Rourke she would like to meet him, and LeBron James, who called the video a “must watch” and praised O’Rourke for his “candid thoughtful words.”

With the video ricocheting around the internet, O’Rourke continued to tackle the issue Wednesday evening at a town hall in Texas City, where the first question he got was about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. O’Rourke gave an answer that echoed his initial one, not backing away from the assertion that there was a patriotic quality to the protests.

“To peacefully, without violence, call attention to problems that we have going on in this country, so that our conscience, our eyes, our focus, are directed on those who otherwise might not have a voice … I think that is something uniquely American,” O’Rourke said.

Meanwhile, Texas Republicans continued to show Thursday morning they are happy to have the debate over kneeling during the anthem, with Cruz firing off a tweet mocking actor Kevin Bacon’s embrace of the viral video. A short time later, state party Chairman James Dickey issuing a statement calling O’Rourke’s definition of American “utterly flawed” and his comments a “slap in the face” to veterans. The episode, Dickey added, “further demonstrates [O’Rourke’s] failure to comprehend the values held by the voters of Texas while he runs tenaciously farther and farther to the left every day.”

O’Rourke clearly sees some political upside to the episode as well. As of Thursday, his campaign was running Facebook ads highlighting his viral comments on the player protests. Meanwhile, an O’Rourke campaign stop Thursday afternoon in Houston featured a surprise guest: Arian Foster, the former Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins running back who kneeled during the anthem in 2016.

Disclosure: The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK –  The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Leads Beto O’Rourke by 4 points, According to NBC/Marist Poll

Just as the fall television ad wars are about to begin, a new NBC News/Marist pollof Texas registered voters shows a tight U.S. Senate race between U.S. Ted Cruzand U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.

In a head-to-head match up, Cruz held a 4-point lead over O’Rourke. Forty-nine percent of respondents backed Cruz, compared to 45 percent who supported O’Rourke.

Six percent of respondents remain undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

Cruz has maintained a fairly strong favorability rating, with 49 percent of those surveyed viewing him favorably and 41 percent viewing him unfavorably.

O’Rourke is far more unknown. Forty-one percent of respondents viewed him favorably while 23 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable view. Thirty-six percent were either unsure of their opinion of O’Rourke or hadn’t heard of him.

That there are so many remaining Texans who do not know who O’Rourke is suggests his television ad campaign strategy will be critical: He either has room to grow his support or room for Cruz’s campaign to negatively define him.

The poll also showed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott with a daunting 19-point lead over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, similar to other public polling of the race.

Additionally, President Donald Trump is just above water in the state: 47 percent of registered voters approve of his job performance, against a 45 percent disapproval rating.

This was a live telephone poll conducted between Aug. 12 and 16. The poll was conducted prior to Tuesday, when Trump’s former longtime attorney and former campaign chairman were separately declared guilty of various crimes.

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON –  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

With O’Rourke Gaining Momentum, Cruz’s November Alarm Hits New Volume

SMITHVILLE — As Ted Cruz took questions at a Republican women’s event here Saturday evening, Bastrop retiree Ronnie Ann Burt wanted to know: Should she really trust the growing barrage of chatter online that the senator’s re-election bid is in peril?

Cruz’s response: Believe it.

“It’s clear we have a real and contested race where the margin is far too close for comfort,” said Cruz, who’s facing a vigorous, massively funded challenge from U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.

Cruz’s stop in this small Central Texas town was part of a return to the campaign trail Saturday in which the incumbent cranked up his long-building warnings that Democratic enthusiasm in the era of President Donald Trump should not be discounted, even in a state as red as Texas.

The timing couldn’t have been more fitting: A trio of polls came out this week showing Cruz’s race tightening and a national political forecaster shifted the contest in O’Rourke’s favor. Meanwhile, Cruz launched his first TV ads Friday, including three targeting O’Rourke, and the challenger moved quickly to turn them into a fundraising boon for him.

Appearing Saturday afternoon at the conservative Resurgent Gathering in Austin, Cruz delivered a nearly 10-minute assessment of the uncertain political landscape he faces in November.

“The biggest challenge I have in this race … is complacency,” Cruz said. “People say all the time, ‘Oh, come on, it’s a Texas re-elect. How could you possibly lose?’ Well, in an ordinary cycle, that might be true. But this is not an ordinary cycle. The far left is filled with anger and rage and we underestimate that anger at our peril.”

Cruz added that there is reason to be skeptical of the polls — his campaign has criticized their methodologies — but the trendline “ought to be a cause for concern for everyone.”

After the Resurgent conference, Cruz headed to a meeting with supporters and home school families in east Austin, where he continued to press the argument that the GOP base cannot take November for granted. Cruz said Travis County was the “base of the support” for O’Rourke but other “bright red” counties like Denton, Tarrant and Collin need to turn out hard as a counterweight.

“There are a lot of good, strong conservatives [in Travis County] too — you’re outnumbered, but it does make you sturdier when you’re withstanding criticism and abuse,” Cruz said. “What [Democrats] are doing is to find every liberal in the state of Texas and get them energized and get them to show up.”

Cruz’s remarks at events Saturday came a day after Gov. Greg Abbott offered a more reassuring forecast for November while addressing the Resurgentconference. He dismissed the idea of a “blue wave” in November as media hype that “sells papers” and reminded the audience that he ended up defeating his much-ballyhooed Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, by over 20 points in 2014.

“Texas is going to stay red,” said Abbott, whose Democratic opponent, Lupe Valdez, has not caught traction in the way O’Rourke has against Cruz.

Cruz did not sound as sure as Abbott on Saturday — and his supporters appeared to get the message.

“I think what Sen. Cruz said is true: The Democrats are unhappy that they lost [the 2016 presidential election] because they never anticipated it, and so they’re coming out in force, and I see it in my own county,” said Jeanne Raley, vice president of the Lost Pines Republican Women group that hosted Cruz in Smithville. “That just means we have to work harder.”

“Complacency will kill any of us,” she added.

O’Rourke spent Saturday in the border city of Del Rio, the latest stop on his 34-day tour of the state during the August congressional recess. Holding an evening town hall there, O’Rourke geared up supporters for a final three months of the race with momentum on their side.

“They say there are two points that separate us, the campaign we’re running and Ted Cruz — two points is all we’re down right now,” O’Rourke said. “There are 94 days to go in this election. We can totally win this, but it is 100 percent on us.”

O’Rourke’s campaign continued to show momentum Saturday afternoon, when it said it had raised more than $500,000 over the last 24 hours in response to Cruz’s commercials. The campaign has set a goal of topping $1 million by the end of the weekend.

Cruz got a taste of the opposition several minutes into his appearance at the Resurgent Gathering, when a protester interrupted with a sign reading, “Russian Bootlicker,” called Cruz a coward and used an expletive to denounce the crowd before breaking out in chants of “Beto!” Speaking afterward, Cruz wasted little time turning the incident into a rallying point for the fall.

“That anger, by the way, is dangerous,” Cruz said. “Every one of us needs to be taking this November election deadly serious.”

Sydney Greene contributed to this report.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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