Cruz slams O’Rourke as Senate race is set

Less than two hours before both U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and his Democratic challenger for re-election, Beto O’Rourke, learned they easily cleared Tuesday’s primaries, the GOP incumbent mentioned his opponent by name for the first time publicly.

Cruz compared the Democratic congressman from El Paso to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, referring to O’Rourke as a “left wing, liberal Democrat” who wants to impose steep tax hikes, open borders and amnesty protections for immigrants, which “is not what an overwhelming amount of Texans support.”

O’Rourke, aware the attacks will increase now that the primary is over, said he will continue to travel Texas — having already visited 226 of the state’s 254 counties — mentioning smaller cities, such as San Benito, Weslaco, Mission and Edinburg. These are all places he’s already visited in 2018. An attack-ridden campaign is not something he thinks Texans are interested in, O’Rourke added.

“Going to keep showing up and listening to people,” O’Rourke said of his campaign plans Tuesday night. “Never asking if you’re a Republican or Democrat; not care if you live in a big city or small town.”

With 25 percent of the vote counted, O’Rourke had captured 60 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. Cruz had an even easier time in the GOP primary, capturing 85 percent with 30 percent of the vote counted.

“Beto O’Rourke (D) is at 64 percent statewide and will obviously avoid runoff for #TXSEN,” tweeted Dave Wasserman, who works at The Cook Political Report, an independent online newsletter that analyzes elections and campaigns, “but so far his numbers in lots of rural TX aren’t living up to the 254-county tour hype.”

Cruz and O’Rourke both said Tuesday they plan to visit the Rio Grande Valley a handful of times between March and the November midterm election. O’Rourke’s next trip will likely be in April or May, the congressman added.

“The border presents a stark contrast between the Republican and Democratic candidates,” Cruz said, citing a recent decline in illegal immigration and telling the story of his father, Rafael, immigrating to the U.S. from Cuba.

In 2012, Cruz received 31 percent of the vote in Hidalgo County. He said Tuesday he’ll campaign “vigorously in South Texas and around the state.”

“We are working to earn the votes of every Texan,” Cruz said. “In 2012, I was gratified to earn 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas. I will note that 40 percent voted for me in Texas in 2012 while I was campaigning unequivocally against amnesty protections.”

As for fundraising, O’Rourke has raised more than $8.7 million since he announced his candidacy in March 2017. He out raised Cruz in three of the last four filing periods — in the first six weeks of 2018, O’Rourke raised $2.3 million compared to Cruz’s $800,000.

O’Rourke has pledged not to take any political action committee contributions, calling his campaign “very much grassroots, that’s in every county and every part of Texas, listening to everyone.” Cruz, meanwhile, did not seem concerned about his fundraising.

“Congressman O’Rourke’s campaign is benefiting from left wing rage,” Cruz said. “It may get some online contributions …”

While O’Rourke’s fundraising could possibly be further aided by PACs or outside campaigning, he’s not interested. During a January Valley visit, O’Rourke said he wasn’t too interested in having Democratic leadership from Washington campaign for him in Texas. He stood by that claim Tuesday.

“One, I don’t think anyone’s interested in coming to Texas from outside the state,” O’Rourke said. “And two, I think Texas is interested in deciding this for ourselves.”