DALLAS - The gloves came off several times during Friday night’s spirited debate between Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O'Rourke.
While domestic policy was the focus of the first debate between the two senate candidates, they also sparred over timely topics like the recent deadly shooting of Botham Jean by Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger and school shootings.
Right off the top, the moderators asked O'Rourke and Cruz about immigration and focused on "dreamers," children who were brought to this country illegally by their parents. O'Rourke said he supports a pathway to citizenship. Cruz does not.
“To rewrite our immigration laws in our own image and to ensure that we begin by freeing Dreamers from the fear of deportation by making them U.S. citizens, they can contribute to their full potential,” O’Rourke said.
“My views on immigration are simple and I’ve summed them up many times in just four words -- legal good, illegal bad. I think vast majority of Texans agree on that,” Cruz said.
Not surprisingly, Cruz said he supports President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall at the border and O'Rourke does not.
The two were also asked about the recent shooting death of Jean by Guyger. O’Rourke has publicly called for Guyger to be fired. Cruz challenged that stance saying O’Rourke is basically attacking all law enforcement with his statement. O’Rourke pushed back.
“Instead of suggesting the police are risking their lives to protect all of us and turning people against police, I think it’s profoundly irresponsible,” Cruz said.
“This is why people don’t like Washington D.C.,” O’Rourke said. “You just said something that I did not say and attributed it to me.”
Another source of contention was kneeling for the national anthem. O’Rourke supports people's rights to "take a knee," which he believes is a peaceful way to protest racial injustice. Cruz said it’s a slap in the face to veterans.
Gun rights were discussed and the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School was brought up. O’Rourke supports banning assault rifles. Cruz wants to add more officers and metal detectors in schools. That topic igniting another heated exchange.
“Thoughts and prayers are just not going to cut it anymore, Senator Cruz, the people of Texas deserve action,” O’Rourke said.
“Hold on, more armed police in schools is not thoughts and prayers. I’m sorry that you don't like thoughts and prayers, I will pray for anyone I harms ways but I’ll also do something about it,” Cruz said.
SMU Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson watched the hour-long debate and believed both sides walked away happy.
“I think we’ve got two effective communicators here and, so in that sense, both debaters will be pleased in their performance. They put their ideas forward effectively there were no major gaffs or stumbles so overall strong for both sides,” Wilson said.
In closing the moderators asked both men to say something nice about one another. They complemented each other's passion and devotion to their families.
A Quinnipiac poll out this week showed Cruz up by nine points. However, a poll released 24 hours later by Reuters showed O’Rourke up two points over Cruz.
Democrats haven't won a Texas statewide office since 1994, but the ex-punk rocker O'Rourke is staying closer to Cruz than anyone expected.
There will be two more debates before Election Day – one in Houston and another in San Antonio.