Dewhurst makes hard appeal to veterans, Cruz hits airwaves on eve of Texas’ US Senate runoff

July 31, 2012

By Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO — The two Republicans vying for the U.S. Senate nomination in Texas spent the final hours of their white-hot runoff race rallying their bases Monday, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst making a hard appeal to veterans and tea party-backed Ted Cruz taking his anti-establishment message to radio and television stations.

The race is being watched nationally as a test for the tea party against well-entrenched Texas Republicans who aren’t used to losing. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. Whichever candidate wins Tuesday’s runoff will be an overwhelming favorite against the Democratic nominee in November for the right to replace retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Dewhurst, who once looked like a slam-dunk for the job, is now believed to be in a major fight after failing to win a majority in the nine-candidate GOP primary on May 29. He has overseen the Texas Senate from the powerful lieutenant governor’s post since 2003 and has been endorsed by popular Gov. Rick Perry and much of the state’s Republican establishment.

Cruz is the son of a Cuban immigrant who has a fiery public speaking style that has fired up grassroots groups.

An Air Force veteran who also was stationed in Bolivia for the CIA, Dewhurst spoke Monday in San Antonio at one of the oldest Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in the country, flanked by Perry and Peter Holt, the owner of the city’s NBA franchise, the Spurs.

His voice cracked as Dewhurst described his father, Lt. Col. David H. Dewhurst, who was a World War II pilot who was home from the fighting when he was killed by a drunk driver when his son was just 3.

“This is a crusade. My dad flew 85 missions. He didn’t have a chance to fly his 86th,” the lieutenant governor said, close to tears. “Let’s make this his 86th mission.”

His comments came after retired U.S. Navy fighter pilot Jake Ellzey said at the same rally, “I dare Ted Cruz to come in to any VFW post anywhere in the state and talk about fighting.”

“Mr. Cruz, you’re not a fighter because you’ve never worn the uniform,” Ellzey said.

Asked if that was a fair assessment, Dewhurst said, “I agree with the commander.”

“Normally, I’ve found in my life that the louder you speak, probably, the less of a fighter you are,” he continued. “All the fighters I’ve had a chance and the honor to serve with didn’t pat themselves on the back, were pretty humble men and women.”

Cruz describes himself as the race’s only true fighter for conservative values. A spokesman for his campaign, James Bernsen, said Monday that Ellzey’s and Dewhurst’s comments offended him as a veteran of the Iraq war.

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