With just nine weeks until the primary election Republicans running for the US Senate are battling for position.
On the big, broad issues there’s little difference. Ted Cruz, David Dewhurst, Craig James and Tom Leppert all promise to slash federal spending and repeal the federal healthcare plan. They oppose abortion and amnesty for illegal immigrants. They claim tougher federal air pollution regulations will kill Texas jobs.
So what’s the difference among the four? KERA asked them during a series of videotaped interviews. We’ll start with the candidate who says he’s the best qualified because he’s never held a government job or elected position. He says he’s from “real street.”
James: That frontline real passion for what’s going on in our country today is why I’ m running. I get it. I’m from real street.
Fifty-one year old Craig James is a former football star and TV sports analyst.
James: When I talk about real street, my life’s experiences over the last 30 years, of being a husband, a dad, a rancher, a real estate developer, a production company executive, started businesses. I’ve provided jobs. All of those things have given me a perspective I think our representatives are missing.
Kofler: Where do you think you have the greatest policy expertise?
James: The economy. Absolutely. It separates me from the other guys right now.
Kofler: I’m guessing that Mr. Leppert and Mr. Dewhurst in particular who built businesses from the ground up would say, “We know what it’s about.”
James: Yeah, if you haven’t been in the economy signing the front end of the check in the last three years, you don’t know this economy. I’ve got assets that are sitting out there right now that are being stalemated but the cost of me running those is still there. Nothing wrong with David, nothing wrong with Ted, but we can’t send another career politician there.
The “Ted” he’s talking about is 41- year old Ted Cruz, a lawyer and former Texas Solicitor General who represented the State of Texas in court. Cruz campaigns as the fighter in the race. We asked about that.
Kofler: Right now in Washington we have a lot of fighters, they’re fighting with each other and they’re not getting things done. So if you go to Washington and you’re a fighter, how will you still get something accomplished?
Cruz: Well, I think the biggest thing we need to accomplish is turning back the last three years. I think the Senate’s at a tipping point. There are right now five or six strong, principled constitutional conservatives. If we can double their numbers, if we can take it to 10 or 12, it will transform the Senate because that’s a critical mass.
The heart of my campaign has been a proven record. As the Solicitor General of Texas I stood up alongside Attorney General Greg Abbott and over and over again fought to defend conservative principles and won on a national level. We defended the Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds. We went to the U.S. Supreme Court. We won five-four. We defended the Pledge of Allegiance when a federal court of appeals struck it down because it included the words “one nation under God.” We went to the U.S. Supreme Court and we won unanimously.
The other leading republicans have both held public office though former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert tries to cast himself as a non-politician. Leppert was CEO at one of the world’s largest construction companies.
Leppert: What we need to have are people who understand the economy where it’s not an academic exercise, it’s not a speech, but they’ve actually created jobs, they understand how to cut spending and they’re not a professional politician. I’ve run businesses in five different industries over 25 years. I have a broad business background. I’ve got the credibility and the public side. I don’t believe we can solve the problems facing our nation with a couple of bullet points or a couple of platitudes. That’s what my opponents have done. What we’ve laid out is a very comprehensive detailed, probably the most comprehensive detailed plan that any senatorial candidate has put out.
Kofler: You’re not the only business guy in the race. There’s another individual who built a very successful business, David Dewhurst. Why are your business credentials more salient than his?
Leppert: I think the contrast is very clear. Lt. Governor Dewhurst-and I think well of him- but he’s been in elected office for nearly 15 years. By his own definition he’s a professional, career politician.
Actually, David Dewhurst has been in elected office 13 years, first as Texas Land Commissioner then as Lieutenant Governor since 2003. Instead of being a negative, Dewhurst believes his political experience gives him credentials his competitors cannot match.
Dewhurst: If you go back and take a look at what we’ve done since 2007, I’ve been involved in passing 51 pieces of legislation that have cut over $14.5 billion in taxes and fees for businesses, for homeowners and for Texas taxpayers. I would be the only one in the United States Senate that’s actually been for a lifetime in the oil and gas industry that has forgotten more than most people in Washington know about the oil and gas industry. I’m the only one who has a background in the electricity business. I’ve been in that business. I’m the only traditional businessperson elected statewide out of 29 statewide elected officials here. And I have a background in intelligence and the military.
As the best known and best funded of the candidates Dewhurst is viewed as the front runner with James, Leppert and Cruz battling for second place and the possibility of going one-on-one with Dewhurst in a runoff election.
A total of nine Republicans and four Democrats are vying to take the seat of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison who is not running for reelection.