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Leppert Endorses Dewhurst Following Senate Debate

Former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert upstaged a televised debate between Republican senate candidates David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz Tuesday night when he appeared with Dewhurst and endorsed him. 

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert finished third in the Republican primary behind Dewhurst and Cruz, both of whom sought his support.

Leppert said his decision on who to endorse came down to the question of who could create jobs.  He said Dewhurst has proven he can do that by building a successful energy business. 

"We’ve got to have people who have that experience who understands what it means to create jobs and understand what it means to deal with budgets," Leppert said.

Although Dewhurst has been lieutenant governor for nine years it’s his business experience he’s emphasized as Cruz has passed him in some polls. 

During Tuesday’s debate Dewhurst contrasted resumes saying Cruz as Texas’ solicitor general was mostly taking orders.

"There’s a difference, with all due respect, between being a staff attorney and arguing those cases your boss tells you to argue and saying those things your boss tells you to argue," Dewhurst said.

Cruz fired back.

"If you want to know my record you can look at what I’ve spent a lifetime doing.  I memorized the U.S. Constitution and gave speeches all over the state of Texas on free market economics.  I also lead the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation which developed the leading strategies which are being used to go after ObamaCare," he said.

The debate gave Cruz an opportunity to hammer Dewhurst on a 2007 speech that recently disappeared from his lieutenant governor’s website.  In it Dewhurst said, “I support a guest worker program for those here today illegally,” because the Texas economy needs skilled workers. 

Cruz called that amnesty and accused Dewhurst of trying to hide his record.

"What the lieutenant governor said in 2007 is he believes we should give a guest work program to every single person who is here illegally.  That is a much broader amnesty than Barak Obama’s," Cruz said. "The lieutenant governor then instructed government employees to remove that speech from the state website."

" I then and now would never support any changes to our immigration law until and unless our border is secure," Dewhurst said.

Dewhurst said he wasn’t trying to hide the speech.  It was archived.

The candidates found common ground in saying they both would have opposed Supreme Court Justice John Robert’s appointment if they’d known he would vote to uphold the federal healthcare law, what they call ObamaCare.  

Both also oppose the expansion of Medicaid, but they seem to view healthcare for low income people differently.

Cruz would offer little or no government assistance.

"I don’t believe it’s government’s job to provide healthcare for everyone in this country. I think it’s an individual’s job to provide healthcare for themselves and their family.  It is much cheaper to provide emergency care than expand Medicaid," Cruz said.

Dewhurst supports government funding of a “safety net” for the most vulnerable.

"Although its not government’s role I’ve been OK with that because these are people that might not be able to survive particularly elderly, frail, disabled and children without some assistance," Dewhurst said.

This was the last Senate debate before early voting begins Monday and the candidates make a final push to clinch the Republican nomination.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.