Tea Party

Cruz should not be treated lightly as candidate

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz addresses delegates at the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth on Friday. Cruz finished first in the party's biennial presidential straw poll. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz addresses delegates at the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth on Friday. Cruz finished first in the party's biennial presidential straw poll. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)

On Monday, after much fanfare, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced his candidacy for President of the United States. In doing so, he became the first major candidate — Democrat or Republican — to formally throw his hat into the ring, though numerous others have already all-but-declared.

Cruz, a darling of the Tea Party, launched his presidential campaign at Liberty University, the evangelical religious-right affiliated college in Lynchburg, Virginia founded by the late Jerry Falwell. In doing so, he pushed for a number of increasingly extreme right-wing fantasies, such as a flat tax and no assistance for struggling students. He was incessantly (and, in my opinion, rightfully) mocked across the board by media pundits for such asinine displays, but the outlets have appeared to underestimate Cruz's prowess as a political candidate.

In the lead-up to the 2012 senatorial election, Cruz was underestimated even more. He began the election polling in the single-digits against the odds-on favorite in the Republican primary (which is tantamount to election), then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. However, Cruz is such an articulate and persuasive force on the campaign trail that he was able to sweep the endorsements of important Tea Party groups, as well as other conservative causes. Partially, this is due to Cruz's inimitable style of casually and confidentially lying on little stuff and big stuff alike. 

Obviously, Cruz pulled off an improbable upset and was elected to the Senate in 2012. There is no reason to not think he can replicate this in the 2016 Republican primary. Much like the activist Left fell in love with Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, at points idolizing him as infallible in near hero-worship, the Right and the Tea Party have done the exact same thing with Ted Cruz. He is their "man on the white horse" who will lead them to the promised land, so to speak.  

Furthermore, similar to how many on the left were unable to comprehend or recognize Obama's inevitable return to the reasonable center following the Democratic primary, it would make sense that the right would have similar cognitive dissonance over Cruz's inevitable return to the reasonable center, should he win the primary. For these reasons, Cruz should be treated as a contender-- if not a front-runner -- to not only win the Republican primaries, but the general election, as the 45th President of the United States.

Horwitz is the senior associate editor.

A student registers to vote at a booth set up by the Asian-American Panhellenic Council at the West Mall April 17. Their aim was to encourage more political participation by not only Asian-Americans but also the student population in general.

Photo Credit: Zen Ren | Daily Texan Staff

This November voters will have the opportunity to make their voices heard regarding the direction of both Texas and the United States, as all major offices in the state’s government will be on the ballot. Texans will elect a new governor and lieutenant governor for the first time in 12 years. Nationally, citizens will be able to express their view on the state of affairs across the country in the general election. All members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of U.S. Senators, including one of Texas’ two seats, will be up for election. The best way for Longhorns to take advantage of their right to vote this November is to familiarize themselves with the issues and the candidates on the ballot.

This year has illustrated the power of the tea party in Texas. While the Republican gubernatorial nominee, Greg Abbott, has stressed his conservatism and frequent pushback against the Obama administration as Texas attorney general, the most contentious race in the Republican primary this year was for lieutenant governor. State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston defeated incumbent David Dewhurst; the upset is one of several Tea Party victories that have shocked the political world. Patrick ran hard to the right of his opponents, frequently lambasting undocumented immigrants and highlighting his pro-life credentials. Tea party-backed candidates also won important nominations for state senate seats, suggesting that the Legislature will have even more of a conservative bent in the next session.

Texas Democrats, who have not carried a statewide election since 1994, hope to reverse their party’s fortunes with Wendy Davis of Fort Worth and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio at the top of the ticket, running for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. Davis garnered national attention last summer for her 11-hour filibuster of a controversial senate bill that severely restricted abortion rights in the state. (Dewhurst’s inability to break Davis’ filibuster was a critical factor in his defeat in May and led to another special session that ultimately passed the measure.) Van de Putte is a longtime, well-respected member of the Texas Senate. Since the 2012 elections, Battleground Texas, a political organization established by Obama campaign veteran Jeremy Bird, has labored to make Democratic inroads in Texas through registering voters and fundraising. Democrats hope that the state’s fast-growing Latino population and a more progressive younger generation can bring their party victory in the Lone Star State. Building a campaign infrastructure, raising money and turning out new voters will be a huge task, and 2014 will mark an early measuring point for such efforts.

However, the Texas GOP’s strong lurch rightward may provide Democrats with a political opening. Recently many Republicans in the state have used harsh rhetoric when discussing sensitive issues such as immigration reform and gay rights. Dan Patrick has described an “illegal invasion from Mexico” and has pledged to end sanctuary cities and in-state tuition for undocumented students often termed “dreamers.” The recent Texas Republican convention in Fort Worth witnessed the triumph of strident conservatism in the party. The GOP endorsed Patrick’s reactionary immigration proposals and renounced its past support for a guest-worker program, which would have provided legal employment opportunities for immigrants. Furthermore, activists prevented the Log Cabin Republicans (a gay rights group) from participating in the convention, and the party even endorsed “reparative therapy,” a practice widely discredited in the scientific community, for LGBTQ people. While such insensitive comments and draconian policies may win the votes of aging whites in the short-term, they will prevent the GOP from earning the voting allegiances of Texas’ booming Hispanic population and younger generation in the long-term.

More than likely, however, the Texas Republican Party will tone down its rhetoric as the general election approaches, to avoid division among its members and alienating undecided voters. Clay Olsen, finance director for College Republicans at UT, explained: “It is common for the parties to push farther to the right or farther to the left during primaries. I don't think it will be problematic in the fall since the base is fired up, and Texas Republicans as a whole understand that now is the time for unity.”

In another interesting development at the Texas GOP convention, Sen. Ted Cruz won the presidential straw poll. Governor Rick Perry, also widely viewed as a potential candidate for the White House in 2016, came in fourth. Cruz’s popularity has skyrocketed among conservatives in Texas and across the country since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2012, surprisingly passing that of Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history. Referencing Perry’s ill-fated 2012 presidential campaign, Olsen discussed this development: “Texas Republicans like to get behind someone who is smart, strong on principles, good at effectively communicating our message and doesn't put their foot in their mouth.” The political futures of Perry and Cruz will be fascinating to watch in the coming years.

But now voters must focus on 2014. Texas faces many complicated issues — education, infrastructure, water supply, just to name a few — that need to be addressed as its population continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Longhorns should study candidates and their policy proposals and make sure to exercise their right to vote this fall.

Briscoe is a history graduate student.

In the past couple of years, Ted Cruz, a former UT law professor and U.S. Senator-elect from Texas, has catapulted himself to national prominence on a very simple premise: Find room to the right of the extremely conservative Republican establishment in one of the nation’s most Republican states. By doing so, Cruz has successfully attracted a great deal of adoration, acclaim and funding from the hyper-conservative Tea Party movement. Riding that wave, he upset Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a runoff primary race last summer and soundly defeated Democratic Senate nominee Paul Sadler in the general election for retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s open seat. Cruz will represent Texas in the Senate for at least the next six years, and is one of the most popular Republican names being tossed around by pundits and news commentators as potential presidential candidates in 2016.

But Cruz has never held elected office before now, so we have no way of knowing for sure what kind of legislator he will be. He has some of the most impressive academic credentials in the Senate, with degrees from Princeton and Harvard Law School, and has been nationally recognized as an expert debater since his undergraduate years. But in his campaign for the Senate seat this year, he showed a pronounced tendency to build his platform on political expediency rather than good sense.
In the hotly contested primary election, Cruz and Dewhurst did their best to out-conservative each other, which resulted in them taking nearly identical stances on almost every issue. The reason Cruz prevailed is that he successfully painted Dewhurst as being willing to work across the aisle with Democrats — a charge that many voters would consider a point in Dewhurst’s favor, but not Texans, and definitely not in today’s polarized political climate. By portraying Dewhurst as too quick to compromise, Cruz appealed to a Republican base that hates the opposition more than it supports productive, bipartisan legislation. It worked out well for Cruz in the primary last May, but it was cause for concern for anybody hoping to see our nation’s leaders work together anytime soon.

In the November general election Cruz called for the abolishment of the departments of Commerce, Energy and Education, the International Revenue Service and the Transportation Security Administration. The Department of Education provides much of college students’ financial aid. Cruz called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” in an interview with the Texas Tribune last fall and proposed to gut it by raising the retirement age and privatizing most of the program’s benefits. He’s also claimed that “Sharia law is an enormous problem” in the United States, called both Medicaid and Medicare unconstitutional, and has promised to repeal “every syllable” of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) even if he has to “throw [his] body in front of a train to stop anything short of its complete and total repeal.”

These positions made for great applause lines at Tea Party rallies, but they’re almost completely implausible. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and all five of the government departments he mentioned are here to stay and are widely accepted as being necessary by people not wearing tinfoil hats. And because the U.S. Supreme Court declared Obamacare constitutional, the president won a second term and Democrats held on to the Senate majority, Cruz may want to schedule his railroad tracks outing.

We’re not even going to dignify the “Sharia law” comment with a response.

Anybody who’s heard Cruz speak recognizes his reasoning ability, so it’s hard to believe he wasn’t aware of the irrationality of his campaign rhetoric. The past year showed that he is willing to say whatever he needs to say to energize the conservative base behind him. It paid off, but one can reasonably expect Cruz to moderate his tone now that he’s won. If he hopes to accomplish much of anything as a legislator he will have to ally himself with the Republican establishment he has been criticizing for the past year. They’re eager to have his star power on their side, and he can’t get meaningful legislation passed simply through fiery speeches and refusal to compromise.

Cruz has already shown signs of embracing the party line. About a week after the election he accepted the position of vice chairman for grass-roots operations and political outreach for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a coalition of Republican senators committed to helping other Republican candidates get elected to the Senate.

Cruz has got his eye on the White House. He’s Canadian by birth, so before he can even run for the office something will need to be done about the clause in the U.S. Constitutional saying that only natural-born U.S. citizens can be elected president. But he will also  have to move a lot more to the middle to appease independents and moderates. Hopefully, he’ll start doing so now in his first term in the Senate.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Ted Cruz, left, and his wife Heidi celebrate during a victory speech Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Houston.
Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz scored an unsurprising victory over Democrat Paul Sadler, becoming the first Hispanic to represent Texas in the Senate.

Cruz, a self-described “constitutional conservative” backed by the Tea Party, was a strong favorite to win the Senate seat throughout the race. A poll from the University of Texas and The Texas Tribune released last month showed Cruz with a 16-point lead over Sadler, 55 percent to 39 percent. Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.

The race between Cruz and Sadler, a former state legislator and attorney, was relatively quiet in the months leading up to the election in comparison to the heated Republican primaries earlier this year. During the race, Sadler raised nearly $359,000 between July and September, a low figure compared to the $3.5 million Cruz raised.

Cruz will take over the seat vacated by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas’ senior statewide officeholder, who has been representing Texas in the Senate for more than 17 years. Hutchinson, who in 1993 became the first woman to represent Texas in the Senate, announced in January of last year she would not seek re-election in 2012.

If elected, Cruz pledged to do away with President Barack Obama’s health care reform and to lower the amount of spending in Washington. He also denounced Obama’s deferred action for undocumented youth and opposes the DREAM Act, legislation that would legalize certain young, undocumented immigrants.
Cruz also favors strict voter ID laws that require voters to show identification. According to his website, Cruz will aim to pass a balanced budget amendment and reduce government size and spending during his term.

During the Republican primaries in July, Cruz was able to score a surprising victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who was considered the race’s frontrunner throughout the majority of the primary. Despite having never run for public office and being relatively unknown in Texas, Cruz decided to take on Dewhurst, who spent $19 million of his own money on his campaign and had the support of several Texas Republicans, including Gov. Rick Perry.

During his campaign to win the primary, Cruz was backed by the Tea Party and drew support from former U.S vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and money from national conservative groups.

Cruz is the former Solicitor General of Texas and was the first Hispanic to hold that position. He has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court, among which he successfully defended the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds and the recitation of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Cruz is also a former adjunct law professor at the University of Texas, where he taught U.S. Supreme Court litigation.

When Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senior U.S. Senator from Texas, retires at the end of this legislative session, we will have a front-row seat to a marked shift in the Texas Republican Party. Likely to replace her is Republican nominee Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who currently leads his opponent, Democrat Paul Sadler, by nearly a 2-1 margin. While both the senator and her likely successor are Republicans, a comparison of Hutchison’s legislative record with Cruz’s goals highlights the contrast between them.

Hutchison, a former UT cheerleader who graduated at 19 and obtained a law degree five years later, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1993. During her 19 years in that office, Hutchison stood with the GOP on most issues, voting with the majority of Republicans almost 90 percent of the time, according to The Washington Post. She invariably supported the oil and gas industry at the expense of environmental protection, and voted for an outright constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. She also voted to exclude sexual orientation from hate crimes criteria. However, her breaks with recent trends in the Republican Party show that she isn’t as through-and-through conservative as many of her colleagues.

Hutchison’s voting record presents a mixed bag on the issue of abortion. She consistently voted for strict restrictions on abortion and contraceptives, but supported Roe v. Wade and repeatedly voted against efforts to prohibit the practice altogether. In a 1993 Senate debate, she argued for restricted but legal abortions up to the third trimester, saying, “I’m not for abortion … The question is, should I make that decision for you, and that’s where I come down on the other side.” In 2003, she told the Dallas Morning News, “I’ve always said that I think that women should have the ability to make that decision, even if I disagree with it.”

The most striking departure from others in her party, however, was her openness toward government spending. In contrast to the Republican holy war on earmarked funds, a major talking point for some Republicans, Hutchison unabashedly sought a great deal of pork barrel government money for her home state. In 2008 and 2009 alone, she claimed almost half a billion dollars in earmarks for spending in Texas and was outspoken in her support of the practice. “I’m proud of being able to garner Texans’ fair share of their tax dollars,” she said in 2009.
Hutchison has also enthusiastically supported federal funding for higher education in Texas. Her website proudly proclaims that  she “has worked to move Texas from sixth in the nation in federal research funding to third.”

That friendly view toward government spending combined with her relatively moderate stance on abortion crippled Hutchison in a 2010 run for Texas governor. Although she was the early frontrunner by a large margin, incumbent governor Rick Perry succeeded in portraying her as a pro-choice, liberal spender and himself as a fiscally and socially conservative alternative to retain the governor’s office for another term. Hutchison had difficulty adapting to an electorate that had turned from predominantly moderate “country club Republicans” to right-wing ideologues, and she lost big. That defeat was more or less the end of her career on the national stage.

Two years later, Hutchison has confirmed her long-rumored retirement and opened up her seat for the next generation. Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz is the overwhelming favorite after his defeat of the GOP establishment’s preferred candidate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in the Republican primary. Cruz, by finding room to the right of the Republican leadership in one of the reddest states in the country, represents a new breed of conservative. Unlike Hutchison, he supports a repeal of Roe v. Wade, calling it a “shameful decision,” and opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. He also proposes the complete elimination of the Department of Education, which would end federal financial aid for college students. Furthermore, Texas can kiss the gravy train of government spending it enjoyed under Hutchison goodbye. In a recent interview with Texas Monthly, Cruz said, “I am absolutely opposed to earmarks. When 435 members of Congress and all 100 members of the Senate go to Washington and view their jobs as feeding at the public trough, that’s how we bankrupt our country, and I don’t think Texans want their senator to be part of that.”

Being a fiscal conservative is one thing, and earmarked spending can certainly be taken too far, but completely cutting off federal support for states and students in a weak economy makes no sense.

It’s a shame that Hutchison is retiring, because she’s the kind of senator Texas needs right now. As she rides into the sunset, a less open-minded generation of Republicans takes her place. That means all the federal spending that brought jobs and growth to Texas, and much-needed help to students, will soon be a thing of the past. That should be cause for concern.

U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz speaks to a cheerful crowd after he defeated Republican rival, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a runoff election for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the retiring Kay Bailey Hutchison Tuesday, July 31, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Tea party darling Ted Cruz convincingly defeated the Republican establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in Texas' runoff election Tuesday, capturing the GOP nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison as fiercely conservative voters shook one of America's reddest states to its political core.

The race had been closely watched nationally as one of the most-vivid contrasts between the GOP mainstream and grass-roots, conservative activists. But as results began to pour in, it turned out to be no contest. Cruz completed the upset by grabbing advantages in key cities around the state where Dewhurst had once enjoyed stronger name recognition, fundraising and political organization.

"We are witnessing a great awakening," Cruz told cheering supporters in Houston shortly after Dewhurst called him to concede. "Millions of Texans, millions of Americans are rising up to reclaim our country, to defend liberty and to restore the Constitution."

More than 1 million Texans voted in the runoff, a surprisingly strong turnout for balloting that came during the dog days of summer.

"We're just tired of the government ignoring the Constitution," said Don Steinway, a 76-year-old retired commercial airline pilot who lives in Houston and described himself as a staunch supporter of the tea party.

Overseeing the state Senate from the powerful lieutenant governor's post since 2003, Dewhurst was long considered a slam dunk in his race with Cruz, the former state solicitor general and son of a Cuban immigrant.

Dewhurst had the endorsement of much of Texas' Republican mainstream, including Gov. Rick Perry, who despite his failed run for president is still widely popular back home. He also had a $200 million personal fortune he could dip into and did, loaning his Senate campaign at least $24.5 million.

But Cruz has a fiery stage presence that made tea party supporters across the state swoon, and received millions from national, conservative organizations that targeted Dewhurst as too moderate.

Even though the lieutenant governor oversaw some of the most-conservative state legislative sessions in Texas history and helped speed the passage of laws requiring women to undergo a sonogram before having an abortion and voters to show identification at the polls — he also occasionally compromised with Democratic lawmakers to keep the legislative agenda moving.

Looking exhausted and shaken, Dewhurst told a small crowd in another part of Houston, "We got beat up a little bit but we never gave up."

"We came up a little short this evening, which is something I'm not used to, being short," said Dewhurst, who stands well over 6 feet tall. "But we will never stop fighting for our beloved Texas."

Perry then released a statement calling Cruz "a force to be reckoned with: an excellent candidate and a great conservative communicator."

Meanwhile, former Democratic state Rep. Paul Sadler easily bested perennial candidate Grady Yarbrough to capture his party's nomination and face Cruz in November's general election, but Cruz begins that race the overwhelming favorite.

Sadler said that he stood "alone as the only nominee of a major political party in Texas because the Texas Republican Party has been hijacked by the tea party."

FreedomWorks organized volunteers for Cruz, and the group's president, Matt Kibbe, struck a similar tone but for a different reason, calling Cruz's victory: "the latest step in the American people's hostile takeover of Washington."

Cruz memorized the U.S. Constitution while in high school and successfully painted his opponent as wishy-washy — even though they actually disagree on little, either politically or ideologically. The 41-year-old Cruz had never run for political office but bolstered his political credentials arguing in front of the state Supreme Court as the longest-serving solicitor general in Texas history.

Texas Republicans aren't used to losing: The state has not elected a Democrat statewide since 1994. But Cruz attacked Dewhurst from the right, and the lieutenant governor's campaign had no real answer.

The state primary was pushed back from Super Tuesday to late May due to a legal fight over redistricting maps drawn by the GOP-dominated Legislature. The 66-year-old Dewhurst beat Cruz by 10 percentage points in the primary but fell about 70,000 votes short of the majority needed for an outright win in a nine-Republican field vying for the party's nomination.

But Cruz gained momentum just by surviving to force a runoff, and solidified his support in the race's final weeks. Things turned especially nasty in the late going, with both sides accusing the other of lying.

Dewhurst also was endorsed by former baseball great Nolan Ryan, as well as former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who finished third in the Republican primary, and ex-NFL running back and ESPN commentator Craig James, the primary's fourth-place primary finisher.

None of it was enough.

Cruz was endorsed by ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, radio talk show host Glen Beck, U.S. Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Kentucky's Rand Paul, as well as former GOP presidential hopeful and Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

"The message of this race couldn't be clearer for the political establishment: the Tea Party is alive and well and we will not settle for business as usual," Palin said via Facebook.

Natache Reeves, a 42-year-old nurse from the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grapevine, said she voted for Cruz because he had Palin's support and was less likely to restrict handgun use.

"I love Sarah Palin, and she's backing Ted Cruz," Reeves said. "I pretty much agree with everything that rolls out of her mouth."

Cruz has drawn comparisons to Indiana, where state Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeated incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar in the Republican primary. But in Texas, the nation's second-most populous state, a win by a tea party-backed candidate is likely to resonate even more.

To Dewhurst's supporters, Cruz said, "We ask you to join us."

"We want you on our team," he continued. "In the heat of the campaign there have been harsh words spoken but I am hopeful that all of us can put them behind us and work together going forward."

Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz, left, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst debate each other at the King Street Patriots event hall, Monday, July 23, 2012, in Houston. Dewhurst and Cruz lobbed barbs Monday night at the debate in Houston sponsored by the tea party organization.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Primary runoff elections are coming to a final vote Tuesday. Texas will name a winner in a U.S. Senate battle some are calling the hottest race in Texas.

Since U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson announced in January that she is retiring and not seeking a fourth term, the competition between Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz has grown fierce. The winner of the runoffs will become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate and advance to the November general election. There, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate will most likely win, due to Texas’ current status as a Republican stronghold, government assistant professor Jason Casellas said.

“There’s about a 99 percent probability that the Republican candidate will win in November,” Casellas said. “Texas is still a heavily Republican state right now.”

Former student body president Natalie Butler said students should consider the issues that affect them as members of the UT community.

“People need to keep the University and higher education in their minds as an issue when they do vote,” Butler said. “Go vote, if you haven’t early voted. Just go vote.”

A primary runoff election occurs in Texas when no candidate for a political office is able to secure the 50 percent and one vote, or more than half of those who voted, necessary to gain their party’s nomination and advance to the general election. At that point, the top two candidates move into a primary runoff to determine who will advance to the general election in November. The candidate with most votes wins the primary runoff.

Republican: At the state level, Republican voters will be choosing candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. Supreme Court and two Railroad Commissioner positions. At the local level, voters will choose candidates for U.S. Representative, State Board of Education member, State Senator and 24 Precinct Chairman positions.

Democrat: At the state level, Democrats will be choosing candidates for U.S. Senate. At the local level, voters will choose candidates for Constable and six Precinct Chairman positions.

Candidates: Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst

Chris Elam, spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas, said his organization looks forward to working with either candidate, as they have both proven to be conservative leaders with similar views on almost all issues.

“Both candidates have demonstrated a commitment to Republican and conservative principles,” Elam said.

“It’s mainly a matter of style,” Casellas said. “They are both against abortion, gay marriage and other major issues. It’s more a matter of emphasis. Cruz will be more of a maverick and Dewhurst will be more of an establishment type. It’s how they will act in office.”

Casellas said Cruz has proven to be a better orator than Dewhurst and may be more vocal in office. Cruz has experience as an attorney and was a debate champion at Princeton University.

Aside from their personalities, the candidates’ political backings are another possible indicator of how they will behave in office, with Cruz having the more active support base, Casellas said.

“Cruz has more of a backing of Tea Party activists, and Dewhurst seems to be more of an establishment Republican,” he said.

Cruz has gained public support from major Tea Party figures, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Congressman Ron Paul. He has also received funding from multiple super PACS, political action committees that raise large amounts of money to campaign for their preferred candidate but cannot coordinate directly with candidates or political parties.

Dewhurst has received endorsements from Gov. Rick Perry, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, 17 state senators and other members of the Texas political arena.

Government graduate student John Graeber said he thinks Cruz’s original Tea Party support base will prove to be a hindrance when in office, as it could create tension for a Congress trying to compromise on long-term issues.

“It seems to me that Dewhurst might be the better candidate strictly because I see Cruz and the fact that he has a close association with the Tea Party as being a possible impediment to Congress’ ability to deal with the longer-term compromises that Congress is going to have to make with regard to policy,” Graeber said. “For instance, I think about the showdown last summer over the budget, and in part, I see that as a product of the unwillingness of the Tea Party block to compromise over tax increases and spending.”

Barney Keller, spokesperson for Club for Growth, a Washington super PAC that has supported Cruz throughout his campaign, said Cruz is gaining more and more support from various areas, which would make his work in Washington easier.

“I think what we have seen on the ground in Texas is Texans from all walks of life increasingly supporting Ted Cruz because they are scared for the future of America and because they believe in free market policies and limited government,” Keller said.

Casellas said the Republican party is fairly split now between its Tea Party and more traditional members, but whichever candidate wins will have the support of both factions once in office.

“The Republican party is kind of divided in a sense,” he said. “We have supporters of the Tea Party having a big component of the party and then sort of the more establishment Republicans that are more concerned with economic policies over social policies. So you still have that kind of divide in the party. Certainly, whoever wins on Tuesday will get the support of both sides.”

Ted Cruz: Cruz is a current partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in Houston and formerly served as Solicitor General of Texas from 2003-2008. He has also worked as an adjunct professor at UT Law, Director of the Office of Policy Planning for the Federal Trade Commission, Associate Deputy Attorney General and as a member of several campaign teams, including the Bush-Cheney team for the 2000 presidential election. Cruz’s father moved to the U.S. from Cuba at age 18 with only $100 and went on to attend UT and start his own business, a story Cruz has shared in many of his public appearances.

David Dewhurst: Dewhurst has been Lieutenant Governor of Texas since 2003. He had formerly served as State Land Commissioner and in the U.S. Air Force. Dewhurst founded the energy and investment company Falcon Seaboard in 1981. He currently has a net worth of $177 million, which would make him the third richest U.S. senator if elected, according to a 2011 analysis of his finances by the Houston Chronicle. Dewhurst often cites his extensive business and political experience in his campaigning.

Extensive campaigning has been done by both parties throughout the primary election, with $8,818,212 being spent on the Cruz campaign and $19,209,584 on the Dewhurst campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a web source that compiles publicly available political information.

Multiple controversial ads have been released throughout the campaign, including one that blamed Cruz for a teen’s suicide and one that blamed Dewhurst for tax hikes and accused him of lying multiple times.

“It has been a particularly ugly campaign,” Casellas said.

Casellas said the main criticism from Cruz against Dewhurst has been that Dewhurst is less conservative since he supported tax increases in the past. From Dewhurst to Cruz, Casellas said criticisms have focused more on ethical issues, including the accusation that Cruz supports the transfer of U.S. jobs to oversees companies.

“Anything a candidate can do to get voters to become skeptical about the other candidate’s character with a close race like this is something they are going to try to do,” Casellas said.

While Tuesday’s race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination will be close, Casellas said it will come down to who comes out to vote.

“It’ll be a close race on Tuesday,” he said. “So, it will all be about turnout, who is able to get their voters out there to the polls.”

Early voting numbers tallied 243,795 by the end of early voting Friday, roughly 3.3 percent of those registered to vote in the election.

Casellas said this was higher than expected with the summer election, showing the public’s interest in who their next U.S. senator will be.

“That’s kind of caught a lot of people by surprise, that turnout was higher than expected,” Casellas said. “People want to make sure that they participate, and you know, early voting is easy to do here in Texas and in Austin. You can even do it at Randalls, for example, so it makes it much easier here for people to turn out and vote.”

Dewhurst currently has a narrow lead of 48 to 44 percent over Cruz, according to a recent Dewhurst campaign internal poll.

The Candidates: Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough

Paul Sadler’s previous experience in Texas legislation, combined with the relative mystery surrounding his politically inexperienced opponent Grady Yarbrough, has made him the favorite to win the runoff election.

“I’m voting for Paul Sadler,” sociology senior Elise Miller said. “I think he has the most experience and is the best Democratic candidate. Elections matter, like it or not things that affect us and we should have a voice in them.”

As a former member of the Texas House of Representatives, Sadler made a name for himself as a champion of higher education when he was chair of the Public Education Committee from 1995 to 2003. Sadler graduated from Baylor Law School in 1979 and currently works as an attorney.

Yarbrough is a retired educator with no previous political experience. He received a BA in Business Education from Texas College in 1959 and a Masters in Education from Prairie View A&M University in 1968.

Sadler has been an advocate of education and its affordibility throughout his political career. Sadler wrote the education code for Texas public schools and has gained support because of the platform he has built in previous years.

Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said Sadler was voted one of Texas Monthly’s “Best Legislators” every session he served, and his experience in Texas politics makes him the top Democratic candidate for state senator.

“Every student in Texas has been impacted by the work Sadler has done,” Acuña said. “He’s definitely the most experienced candidate. He’s very intelligent and has a lot to offer and has a great vision for the state of Texas.”

Sadler said that he has always been a fundamental believer in supporting education as a pathway to the future.

“Students care about the same issue as everyone else, with the added issue of efforts to keep student loans at a reasonable rate, which my Republican opponents fail to support,” Sadler said. “The students are interested in the same thing we are as citizens.”

Sadler said he also hopes to pursue interests in health care and supports the DREAM Act as a way to advocate for young immigrants who work hard to get an education.

Yarbrough’s campaign has a $0 budget, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. With a low-key campaign and little communication with supporters or established Democrats, Yarbrough is not favored to win.

Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said Yarbrough’s success in the primary elections can be attributed to voters’ association of Yarbrough with other unrelated Democratic politicians of the same name, such as Ralph Yarborough or Don Yarborough.

“Yarbrough has what many consider a more famous name in Democratic politics,” Acuña said. “It’s obvious he has gotten to where he is because people associate him with Yarboroughs of the past.”

According to the Grady Yarbrough Facebook page, Yarbrough plans to support Medicare and Medicaid funding, as well as opposing privatization of Social Security. He also intends to work on lowering college tuition.

DENVER — Long skeptical of Mitt Romney, tea party activists are either warming up to the GOP presidential front-runner or reluctantly backing him after abandoning hope of finding a nominee they like better.

Whatever the reason, the former Massachusetts governor who is coming off of back-to-back victories in Florida and Nevada now is picking up larger shares of the tea party vote than he did when the Republican nomination fight began. And that fact alone illuminates the struggles of the nearly three-year-old movement to greatly influence its first presidential race.

“We haven’t gone away,” insisted Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the national Tea Party Express. But, in the same breath, she acknowledged lower expectations and a shift in focus to Senate races over the White House campaign. She also pleaded for patience, saying: “Anybody that thinks we are going to change things in one cycle or two cycles is
fooling themselves.”

Tea party activists across the country entered their first presidential contest this year expecting to hold major sway over the Republican race following a 2010 congressional election year in which their favored candidates successfully knocked off a string of insiders in GOP primaries in Colorado and elsewhere.

The movement influenced the presidential race early on, with candidates from Romney on down parroting the movement’s language and promoting its agenda of restrained spending to curry favor with its adherents.

But the coalition was greatly fractured and plagued by infighting. It also watched as one favored candidate after another lost standing or quit the race, among them Georgia businessman Herman Cain and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. The remaining candidates — Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul — have attributes that tea party backers like but they face huge hurdles in knocking Romney off his stride.

That’s left many in the tea party shifting focus to Romney, a candidate viewed by many as most likely to unseat President Barack Obama, even if he doesn’t vociferously bang the drum of their top issues.

“We’re warming up to Romney,” said Brian Walker, a tea party member and 62-year-old sheet metal contractor in the Colorado mountain town of Florissant. He raves about Santorum but said he’s leaning toward Romney because he wants to support the candidate he views as the likely nominee.

Such perceptions may be one of the reasons Romney has seen a bump in support among tea party followers even though the movement has long been irked by Romney’s tentative embrace of it and evolution on several issues it holds dear.

As tuition continues to rise and employment continues to fall, many UT students are aware of the classic catch-22 of financial aid. Middle class families often do not qualify for basic federal loans but still struggle to pay tuition. The Hinson-Hazelwood student loan program has helped middle class students in Texas fund their educations for decades, is self-funded and costs nothing to taxpayers.

Almost predictably, various chapters of the Tea Party in Texas are planning to annihilate a bond proposition this November which would extend these student loans. The Tea Party has hijacked Proposition 3 on a question of pure ideology, ignoring the concerns of the hard-working students it would benefit.

Proposition 3 allows the state to authorize new bonds for loans under the Hinson-Hazelwood program as soon as old ones have been paid off and is widely recognized as sound policy. It has been in force for almost half a century and has been renewed seven times with support from members of both parties.

The proposition does not increase the borrowing limit and does not raise taxes because it is funded by loan repayment. Raymund Paredes, commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, emphasized that the “strong” program “does not hurt taxpayers at all,” according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Some Texas chapters of the Tea Party movement have cried foul because the loans could theoretically go to illegal immigrants. “We fundamentally have a problem with that,” George Rodriguez, president of the San Antonio Tea Party, asserted to Texas Public Radio last week. Activists insist that the benefits of these relatively low-interest loans should not go to students who are in the country illegally.

However, Hinson-Hazelwood loans have credit requirements which ensure that the number of qualifying illegal immigrants “is miniscule,” according to The Dallas Morning News. Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the coordinating board, affirmed to Texas Public Radio that every student must “prove a pretty high level of credit-worthiness” to be eligible. This fiscal responsibility ensures that the loans are paid back. Sufficient loan repayment is part of what has allowed the program to continue for 45 years without interruption.

In any case, Hinson-Hazelwood loans are just that — loans. The program is not directly paid for with tax dollars because the students pay the loans back with interest. Any illegal immigrants that would benefit from the legislation do so at no cost to taxpayers, negating Rodriguez’s “fundamental” qualms.

Other detractors complain that Proposition 3 allows the state to issue new bonds without voter approval. Houston’s Tea Party has urged its members to vote against the proposition. Its website claims the measure forces Texas to “stay in debt” by perpetuating bonds using an “’autopilot’ debt model”. But this argument is illogical. Renewing bonds that have been repaid is a sound educational and economic investment for the state. Texas gives students money to go to school, and those students pay back the money with interest after they graduate.

Moreover, saying that the Hinson-Hazelwood loans are a model of “autopilot” debt is irrational and misleading. The fiscal notes prepared for the bill specifically state that “no fiscal implication to the state is anticipated.” The money isn’t being thrown down the drain of alleged big government waste. It’s being given to credit-worthy students who would not otherwise be able to afford higher education.

Underlying the issue is the persistence of Tea Party activists to push an at-all-costs agenda, ignoring the clear benefits of Proposition 3 and its associated legislation. In Texas, what the Tea Party wants, the Tea Party is likely to get. In the legislative session earlier this year, the powerful coalition managed to pass some of its pet projects, including, most notably, voter ID and sonogram bills. Though the party’s influence has waned, the threat of its passionate membership is the looming specter that can kill Proposition 3.

If that happens, the results would be catastrophic. Failure to pass Proposition 3 would limit the Hinson-Hazelwood loan program such that its funding could fizzle out before the Legislature reconvenes in 2013.

Rodriguez claims to “recognize the potential impact” of defunding tens of thousands of students in order to nab a smattering of illegal immigrants. Instead of expressing contrition, he promises to “make sure [the impact] falls on the legislators” who put Proposition 3 on the ballot.

Sadly, the blame doesn’t lie with the legislators. It lies with the cabal of Tea Party activists who insist on undermining higher education to attempt to further their essentially convoluted policy goals. Continuing low-interest loans for college students reinforces the state’s goal of increasing access to higher education, and it is something every UT student should support.


Katsounas is a business and government sophomore.

While the U.S. economy continues to sink into oblivion, a seemingly unrelated debate has been raging among political pundits and laymen alike. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks for his continued public support of the so-called “Texas Dream Act.” Hard as it is to imagine, support for the act was common among even the staunchest Republicans 10 years ago. So why is Perry’s position being lambasted now?

Apparently, a lot can happen in 10 years. In 2001, the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature, under Perry’s governorship, passed HB 1403, a bill that grants certain undocumented students in-state tuition waivers. Republican supporters of HB 1403 have since flip-flopped on the issue, going to extreme lengths to prove their tough immigration stances to their constituencies. In a notable example, state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, introduced legislation recently that would mandate that English be the official state language and would eliminate birthright citizenship. Berman proposed this legislation despite voting for the Texas Dream Act in 2001. Though both measures failed, the contrast in his positions is startling and indicative of the new mentality regarding immigration.

There’s at least one politician in the mix who hasn’t changed his mind. These days, Perry’s characteristic “stick-to-your-guns” endorsement of HB 1403 is leaving his Tea Party base both horrified and disillusioned.

Recently, Perry told other GOP contenders at a debate that they didn’t “have a heart” if they disagreed with in-state tuition policies for undocumented immigrants. Though he has since apologized for his word choice, the statement has drawn scorn from prominent politicians. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie directly targeted Perry by calling his own stance “not a heartless position” but a “common sense position”. This theme is a common refrain among detractors but is guided more by overworked rhetoric than substantial economic policy.

Critics of Texas’ HB 1403 often call into question the use of taxpayer funds to grant lower tuition rates to those who don’t “pay into the system.” While it is true that undocumented students do not pay taxes, this shortsighted view completely overlooks the potential tax revenue that could be created by an expanded, educated and diversified workforce.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that college graduates make anywhere from $15,000 to $18,000 more a year than high school graduates. That extra income increases the socioeconomic status of undocumented immigrants while simultaneously expanding consumer spending and home ownership. Both situations increase revenue in property and sales taxes for the state of Texas. Likewise, an educated workforce often attracts high-wage industries, further bolstering the state’s economy.

“Like it or not, these students make up a large percentage of our workforce,” Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, told the Houston Chronicle. “It is a good investment of taxpayer money to have an educated workforce.” While the cost of granting in-state tuition for these students might seem wasteful, in the long-run Texas will make more money from the economic resonance of an educated population than it will lose in tuition waivers.

In any case, the state is already investing millions in educating illegal immigrants through grade school. By continuing to educate these students through college, Texas will eventually draw benefits on their investment through a more successful and productive workforce. At the same time, by continuing to stigmatize undocumented students that are working to educate themselves, we risk alienating a segment of the population that has much to offer our economy and society.

It is also important to distinguish Texas’ bill from the federal DREAM Act — ours provides no citizenship clause. Texas’ HB 1403 is limited to college tuition breaks, and even then, it is limited in several ways. Texas’ bill specifies that the student must have lived in Texas for three years prior to attending college, have graduated high school and have filed a formal intention to apply for permanent resident status. While the heated rhetoric suggests otherwise, HB 1403 simply provides ambitious immigrants a path towards accessible education.

Though Perry’s stance on immigration is far from perfect, in this instance he is being unfairly criticized. Rhetoric aside, providing accessible higher education for undocumented immigrants is essential to the success of Texas’s economy. The Texas Dream Act is, and always has been, an education incentive. The massive influx of young illegal immigrants provides an extraordinary opportunity for Texas, for the state can either educate them and let them be productive or ignore the problem and cripple the economy. Perry himself put it best: “It doesn’t make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That’s the American way.”


Katsounas is a business and government sophomore.