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Cruz and O’Rourke meet up in first debate

Cruz and O’Rourke cover domestic issues in first of three debates

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Editor’s note: The Marquee was granted media access to attend the debate.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s first debate on Sept. 21 covered domestic policy issues such as gun control, school shootings, healthcare and immigration. Cruz mentioned O’Rourke’s previous comments about abolishing ICE and comparing police officers to “the modern day Jim Crow.”

“I’ve gotten to know police officers all over the state,” Cruz said. “That is offensive. That is not Texas.”

Cruz’s comments were met with applause from the audience. O’Rourke denied calling police officers “modern day Jim Crow.” O’Rourke made the comment Cruz referred to during a town hall at Prairie View A&M University last Wednesday.

“That injustice, to many more people here than I know firsthand, continues to persist today,” O’Rourke said during the town hall meeting. “That system of suspecting somebody, solely based on the color of their skin searching that person solely based on the color of their skin. Stopping that person solely based on the color of their skin. Shooting someone solely based on the color of their skin. Throwing the book at that person and letting them rot behind bars solely based on the color of their skin. It is why some have called this — I think it’s an apt description— the new Jim Crow.”

Throughout the debate, O’Rourke accused Cruz of attributing things to him he didn’t say or taking quotes out of context.

“This is why people don’t like Washington D.C.,” O’Rourke said. “You just said something I did not say and attributed it to me.”

Cruz says O’Rourke “advocated” for a resolution in the El Paso City Council calling for a national debate on legalization of all narcotics nine years ago. Cruz says that would be a “profound mistake” and hurt the children of this country. O’Rourke agreed and has backed off this position.

O’Rourke brought up his visits to all 254 counties in Texas throughout the debate. Cruz dismissed this as a “photo op”.

O’Rourke also addressed Cruz’s absence during votes. He noted in 2016, Cruz was absent for half the votes in Senate.

“You tell me, who can miss half the days at work and then be rehired for the same job going forward?” O’Rourke said. “That’s not what Texans want.”

When Cruz and O’Rourke addressed school shootings and gun rights, they both stayed firm on their stances.

“Weapons of war belong on the battlefields, not in our schools, our churches, our concerts or our public life,” O’Rourke said.

Cruz reaffirmed his belief that school shootings aren’t due to gun control laws.

“It is horrific, and as the father of two daughters, there is something deeply wrong that we have these shootings, there’s a lot of things behind it that have nothing to do with government, they have to do with things like removing God from the public square. Like losing the moral foundation of much of our society, like loosing the binds of community and family,” Cruz said.

Cruz responded with citing his visit to Santa Fe High School after the school shooting in May. He said while he and Gov. Greg Abbott were visiting a dozen students in the hospital after the shooting, he asked them, “What’s the answer to this?” He said all of them answered almost word for word, “Gun control is not the answer.” Cruz said the students, parents, and teachers of Santa Fe thought they could make schools safer by having armed officers protect them. His statements were met with applause from the audience.

After Cruz complimented O’Rourke by commending him for being passionate and believing what he’s fighting for and compared him to Sen. Bernie Sanders. O’Rourke said, “True to form” in response, sparking a trending Twitter hashtag.

“That’s just what came to mind and I said it,” O’Rourke commented after the debate.

O’Rourke also reiterated his comments about supporting teachers and public education he made during the debate.

“Investing in the ability for everyone to be well enough to live their full potential, I don’t know what to call that but it just seems like the right thing to do, and also the most fiscally responsible thing to do,” O’Rourke said. “We’d pay much less if we took care of everyone up front. Getting behind school teachers, half of whom are working two, sometimes three jobs in this state, that’s an investment in the future of public education.”

Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office since 1994.

The race has been classified as a toss-up as most polls show the candidates within a few points of each other. 

“It shows the two party system very well in a sense that we’re not living in a state that if you’re a Republican that’s the only thing that matters. You’ve got a race here that Republicans and Democrats can be excited about,” SMU political science professor Victoria Farrar-Myers said. “As a professor, I always encourage two things: Vote and be civically active.”

Texas ranks 50th in the nation for midterm voter turnout. Marcus will be hosting voter registration on Sept. 25 during 1st and 2nd periods in the library. Students must be 18 on or before Nov. 6 and bring their driver’s license or the last four digits of their social security number.

For more information on the close race between O’Rourke and Cruz, watch for the Marquee’s upcoming October issue.

Watch the full hour-long debate here.

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Cruz and O’Rourke meet up in first debate