Cruz-proposed McAllen Senate debate with O’Rourke looking unlikely

McALLEN — The prospects of a debate that Sen. Ted Cruz proposed in McAllen with Beto O’Rourke, his Democratic challenger, on Sept. 14 is looking less likely as neither Senate candidate has agreed yet to even one debate.

After O’Rourke in the Spring challenged Cruz to six debates, including two in Spanish, the incumbent senator proposed five debates. The first debate Cruz proposed was for Aug. 31 in Dallas, but O’Rourke never agreed to it. And the El Paso Congressman said this week that the Aug. 31 debate will not happen.

Cruz told reporters on Monday that he assumes there will be some debates, but he isn’t sure how many: “They seem very reluctant to engage.”

O’Rourke’s campaign spokesperson, Chris Evans, said Wednesday that the two campaigns are in discussions about setting up “mutually agreed upon debates.” Both Cruz and O’Rourke have both told The Monitor that they are open to a debate in McAllen.

“O’Rourke has not given us any proposed debates times or dates or cities,” Cruz spokesperson Emily Miller said Wednesday. “Our campaign staff continues to talk to his campaign but he seems scared to debate because he keeps putting off making any concrete plans.”

Late Tuesday, the state GOP tweeted out an arrest photo of O’Rourke from two decades ago, ramping up efforts to reshape the challenger’s image.

“There’s always the chance that Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke won’t debate Senator Cruz because he got into a hazy situation … “ the tweet reads. Over the mug shot, the GOP superimposed the words, “Sorry. Can’t Debate. Had a little too much to drink.”

The attack comes in the aftermath of polls showing O’Rourke neck-and-neck with Cruz, or close to it, and with major Cruz allies expressing increasing concern about his ability to hang onto the seat. The Club for Growth plans a “seven-figure ad blitz” on his behalf.

O’Rourke’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on the mug shot attack.

Cruz aides declined to speak on the record about the senator skipping votes.

O’Rourke, 45, was arrested twice in El Paso during his 20s: in 1995 for attempted burglary and in 1998 for driving while intoxicated.

He has said the arrest happened after he tripped an alarm while jumping a fence at the University of Texas at El Paso. Prosecutors declined to pursue that case. He received deferred adjudication on the drunken-driving arrest, and was not convicted.

“There is no excuse and there’s nothing I can say, other than that was very stupid of me and I showed really poor judgment, bad judgment,” he told The Dallas Morning News earlier this year. “It was something that I did, and I hope in those 20 years I have been able to contribute to this community. But there is just no excusing for that.”

The debates Cruz proposed in July were the following:

>> Aug. 31 in Dallas covering jobs, taxes, federal regulations and national economy;

>> Sept. 14 in McAllen covering immigration and border security, criminal justice and the Supreme Court;

>> Sept. 21 in San Antonio covering foreign policy and national security;

>> Oct. 5 in Houston covering energy, trade and the Texas economy;

>> Oct. 12 in Lubbock covering health care and Obamacare.

O’Rourke has consistently said for months that he will debate Cruz, but O’Rourke never agreed to any of these specific debates. Scheduling will get a bit tricky once August ends, as the two will have official House and Senate schedules to attend to.

This story also includes reporting from The Dallas Morning News.