Cruz, Beto defend stances in last debate before elections

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, left, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, take part in a debate for the Texas U.S. Senate Tuesday in San Antonio. Associated Press photo

By Molly Atchison | Editor-in-Chief

Texas senatorial candidates Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke took on issues like climate change, abortion and healthcare reform during their final debate before Election Day on Nov. 6. The entire state’s attention was focused on San Antonio Wednesday night as the two met and defended their stances on key issues in their state.

Plano senior Landon Dutra is a political science major on Student Court, watched the debate. “With the election right around the corner, this debate showed the colors of who both O’Rourke and Cruz are,” Dutra said. “We saw a lot of the fire of O’Rourke, who has fallen behind on in the polls, and who needs to turn Cruz on the defensive in the election.”

In a debate moderated by Sarah Fogany of KENS-5 and Jason Witley of WFAA in Dallas, the congressmen each had 90 seconds for a statement, and then the first speaker had 60 seconds for rebuttal at the end. Based off an off-camera coin toss, Cruz was to be last in the the final closing statements, meaning O’Rourke started off the debate.

“Although Ted may be ahead in the polls, he hasn’t campaigned as much and thinks this will be an easy election to win. But with the amount of support from young people and first time voters, this will be a tight race that could very much bring a Democrat back to statewide office in Texas.” Dutra said.

The debate began with the moderators asking about how the Senate should do electoral protections for the upcoming election season. Both candidates took strong stances against voter manipulation, and it wasn’t until the next question when the two were truly pitted against each other — when they were asked about their views on a possible Roe v. Wade change.

“I believe that every human life is a gift from God … The people of Texas, we don’t want to see taxpayers fund and Medicaid fund late-term abortions,” Cruz said. While Cruz was firm in his stance, he abstained from speculation on what the Supreme Court may decide. Supreme Court decisions were a hot topic in this debate, following the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the court on Oct. 6. O’Rourke, however, firmly rebuked the Republican’s choice of Supreme Court candidates, and the idea that Roe v. Wade might be overturned.

Next, the debate moved toward further policy issues, specifically climate change. O’Rourke, who is a supporter of climate-friendly policy, dug into his opponent on this issue, and argued that Texas, a large oil and gas producer, should not be dependent on these products alone.

“We can support Texas being a proud energy leader in oil and in gas, but also in renewable energy — we can continue to grow this economy,” O’Rourke said.

Cruz, on the other hand, was quick to call out his opponent on the fact that O’Rourke supported former President Barack Obama’s Paris Climate Agreement, which President Donald Trump pulled out of this past year.

Cruz stated multiple times that O’Rourke’s plan for Texas did not have the state’s best economic interests in mind. As the debate moved on to other issues, the temperature seemed to drop, and candidates started throwing more direct blows at each other.

“Congressman O’Rourke’s plan would triple your taxes,” Cruz said about O’Rourke’s plan for universal healthcare.

O’Rourke fired back, saying “In a state where the largest provider of mental healthcare is the state penitentiary system … surely we can do better.”

One conversation that came up was the question of hurricane relief efforts, and why each candidate chose to support Houston and the surrounding areas in the ways they did.

“They need a full-time senator, not someone who is busy running for president,” O’Rourke said. He also took his 90 seconds to point out that there is still money from Cruz’s emergency relief fund that has yet to be reallocated to Houston for hurricane relief.

At the end of the debate, however, the candidates came to similar conclusions about bipartisanship, respect for women and their view on the political race itself.

“I will say the hardest thing about being in this job is being a dad … Monday morning leaving is really hard,” Cruz said.

O’Rourke agreed, and spoke about his son Henry, “One of the best parts of my day when I am home is getting to walk him to school.”

Lewisville junior Alyssa Foy is the treasurer of Baylor Democrats, and had plenty to say about the Baylor Democrats watch party that took place Wednesday night.

“We had a great turnout for our event watching the debate together as a club,” Foy said. “Really good questions were asked and it felt like a productive debate. It was good to hear new specific perspectives since the questions at the first debate seemed so general. We hope students stay involved and make a plan to vote. It’s one thing to get registered to vote, another to actually get the vote out.”

The Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas spoke about debate as well. Lorena junior Stefan Fitting said “As Cruz mentioned several times, Beto is simply out of touch with Texas values and it shows. Whether it’s late-term abortions, gun control or raising taxes, Cruz seems much more in touch with Texans. Beto feels more like someone gearing up for a presidential campaign.”