Accusations and insults flew last night as Democratic Senate Candidate Paul Sadler tried to narrow the double-digit lead held by Republican Ted Cruz.
Sitting nose to nose across a small table, the candidates made objections, cross examined and launched personal accusations.
"He tells untruths and tells lies about things. He’s got these great conspiracy theories that go unchallenged," Sadler said.
From the start the Democrat went on the offensive challenging Republican Ted Cruz to more than the two debates he’s accepted."The bottom line is you know I know you don’t know enough about state government. And you won’t face me six times," Sadler said.
"Maybe instead of saying I’m scared to face you, you could actually respond," Cruz said.
Then Cruz was asked his view of a videotaped comment plaguing his party’s presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. Does Cruz think Texans accepting government assistance like food stamps see themselves as victims the government should take care of?
"Of course not," Cruz said. " I do think part of the philosophy of President Obama and this administration is trying to get as many Americans as possible dependent on government so that the Democrats can stay in power in perpetuity."
"That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my life," he said. "You’re really accusing the President of the United States of using a government program to manipulate people to not get a job to be dependent on government for services. Are you really accusing the President of the United State of that?"
"I’m impressed we are just a few minutes into it and you have already now three times called me crazy on observing that the president has expanded government dependency. One in seven Americans," Cruz said.
"You said he was manipulating Americans so they would vote Democratic. That’s what you said," Sadler said.
"I didn’t use the word manipulate," Cruz replied.
And that’s how it went for most of the hour, as Sadler said he supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and Cruz said he doesn’t, that we should end illegal immigration.
Cruz agreed with Congressional Republicans who want to reexamine foreign aid for Egypt following attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Sadler argued the aid is needed to keep Egypt as an ally.
The candidates also tangled over the federal healthcare law, what Cruz calls Obamacare. He wants to repeal it saying it would put the United States on a path to socialized medicine.
"If you look at every nation on earth where socialized medicine has been implemented the result has been poor quality, waiting times and rationing, and putting government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors," Cruz said.
Sadler says that would give away patient benefits.
"You’re going to give away closing the prescription donut hole. You’re going to give away preexisting condition exceptions. You’re giving away leaving our children on (insurance) until age 26," he said. "You’re going to give away the fact that insurance companies can’t deny coverage simply because we get sick."
Both candidates sidestepped questions. Sadler declined to clearly say whether Congress should let Bush tax cuts expire, which would cause income and payroll taxes to go up.
"We have to look at every single one of them (tax cuts) and determine if we can use some of that money to pay down our national debt," Sadler said.
Cruz dodged when Sadler and reporters asked if the Republican believes President Obama is a Christian, born in the United States.
"I am going to talk about the issues I think voters should focus on," Cruz said.
Whether all the fireworks will shift voter support is yet to be known. A new poll gives Cruz a daunting 26 point lead going into the debate. But it also said a fourth of registered Texans still don’t know who they want to send to the U.S. Senate.
Sadler and Cruz will debate again at KERA on October 19.