Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke Texas battled over healthcare, immigration and law enforcement in their first debate on Sept. 21.
From the outset, the aspirants went after each other. The language was blunt and fierce with both contestants looking to land a knockout punch.
Immigration was the first topic.
O’Rourke called for a pathway to grant Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and illegal immigrants for citizenship.
Cruz argued against this proposal. His belief was simple: “legal, good; illegal, bad.” Cruz further called out O’Rourke saying, “His focus seems to be on fighting for illegal immigrants and forgetting the millions of Americans - you know, Americans are dreamers also.”
Law enforcement and police brutality was another point of contention.
“If African-Americans represent one third of people shot in America then we have a problem,” O’Rourke said. Cruz argued that the rhetoric O’Rourke espoused was furthering the divide in America. He suggested that O’Rourke recently associated the police with old Southern traditions.
“I think it is offensive to call police officers modern day Jim Crow,” Cruz said.
Cruz pressed O’Rourke on his position on the Second Amendment claiming O’Rourke’s position on gun rights were “radical.”
“Who will defend the Second Amendment? And I would note that the justices Congressman O’Rourke would insist upon, like Hillary Clinton, are justices that would undermine and effectively write the Second Amendment out of the Constitution. Those are radical views and they’re not views consistent with the overwhelming majority of Texans.”
O’Rourke responded with his support for the Second Amendment but reiterated his desire to see fewer shooting incidents.
“Weapons of war belong on the battle field, not in our schools, churches or life,” O’Rourke said.
Cruz and O’Rourke clashed over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. O’Rourke asserted his belief that the protests are the fundamental rights given to American citizens and that “there’s nothing more American “ than being able to protest peacefully.
Cruz said that kneeling during the anthem was disrespectful to veterans. Cruz reiterated his belief that everyone has a right to protest but should do it in way that doesn’t “disrespect the flag.” Cruz insinuated the protest was inciting people to burn the American flag.
O’Rourke dismissed the claim. “No one here, myself included, has suggested that anyone should do that.”
The two candidates have been closer than ever before in polling. Beto O’Rourke is hoping to cause an upset while Ted Cruz is hoping to help maintain the Republican majority in the Senate.
This was the first of three debates. The next two debates are set for Sept. 30 in Houston and Oct. 16 in San Antonio.