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The Cruz-Sadler Senate Debate: What Did We Learn?

Dallas Morning News

Beyond some clear differences on important policy issues, one of the things we learned early during the first debate between Democrat Paul Sadler and Republican Ted Cruz is that both trial attorney-candidates love to argue.  

And raise their voices.  And interrupt each other as well as the debate moderator.

Sitting nose to nose across a small table on Tuesday, Sadler and Cruz raised objections, cross examined each other and lobbed personal attacks. 

Watch the entire debate on

Most memorable attack: Sadler calling Cruz a “troll”

It followed Cruz accused Sadler of supporting a state income tax while he served in the Texas House of Representatives.  

Sadler to Cruz:  “What you don’t do is do your job as a legislator is worry that some troll will come along ten years later or twenty years later and run a campaign against you.”  Cruz to Sadler: I’m sorry Mr. Sadler you believe I’m a troll. Post Debate: Sadler emailed reporters a day after the debate saying that while he opposes a state income tax he sponsored a House Resolution considering one in 1992 as part of an effort to consider every option for creating a school finance plan acceptable to the state Supreme Court. Sadler says:  Our job was to draft a proposal on every conceivable option and we did just that

When the candidates backed off their red-meat rhetoric voters had an opportunity to compare two very different policy perspectives.  Here are five examples:


Sadler said he supports a worker permit program and a pathway to citizenship for 1.6 million illegal immigrants in Texas. 

Cruz opposes such a program saying it’s amnesty.  He called for stopping illegal immigration through stronger border surveillance and penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers.


Cruz agreed with Congressional Republicans who want to reconsider foreign aid for Egypt following attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.  

Sadler argued the aid is needed to keep Egypt as an ally.


Cruz opposes repealing any of the so-called Bush-era tax cuts which are set to expire at the end of 2012.  If that happens income and payroll taxes will increase for many Americans.

In May Sadler said the tax cuts should be eliminated as a way of reducing the federal debt.  During Tuesday’s debate he wouldn’t say whether he wants to do away with all the cuts, but post debate he said everything should be on the table.


Cruz would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which he calls Obamacare.  He calls it a pathway to socialized medicine:

  • If you look at every nation on earth where socialized medicine has been implemented the result has been poor quality, waiting times and rationing, and putting government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors. – Cruz

Sadler would vote to protect the federal healthcare law saying patient rights would be jeopardized if it were repealed.
He responded to Cruz this way:

  • You’re going to give away closing the prescription donut hole.  You’re going to give away preexisting condition exceptions.  You’re giving away leaving our children on (insurance) until age 26.  You’re going to give away the fact that insurance companies can’t deny coverage simply because we get sick.  – Sadler


During a discussion of illegal immigration Cruz changed coursed and accused Sadler of opposing the Second Amendment, something that is close to heresy among gun-toting Texans.  Moderators tried to return to the immigration issue but Sadler declared himself a gun owner and avid hunter and sought to turn the tables on Cruz:  

Sadler to Cruz:  Do you even own a gun, Ted? Cruz to Sadler:  I do Sadler to Cruz:  Do you hunt? Cruz:  (no answer)

Cruz said the question is a distraction from important policy issues and worthy of a response.   

Sadler says he voted against a conceal-and-carry bill when he was a legislator because it required the weapon to be carried on the person. That bill made it unlawful to conceal the gun in a purse or the glove box of a car.  

Stayed tuned:  Gun ownership and hunting have often been litmus tests in Texas campaigns.  This seemingly sidebar issue may not be going away.  

Also coming up, KERA’s live, televised Texas Debate between Cruz and Sadler on October 19.   We’re planning for a lively but substantive exchange. 

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.