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Texas Tea Party Feud Pits Cruz Against Patrick

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The Texas Capitol building in Austin. (credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Red Bull)

The Texas Capitol building in Austin. (credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Red Bull)

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Long-simmering tensions between tea party-backed U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz and Sen. Dan Patrick, a leading tea party voice in the Texas Legislature, have boiled over during a radio interview.

Cruz, a former state solicitor general, appeared on Patrick’s radio show Thursday and claimed the host is indirectly supporting his opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — saying Patrick had been “acting as a surrogate” for months. Patrick responded that he has not endorsed anyone, but also accused Cruz of lying and not understanding how the Legislature works.

Things escalated, with Cruz eventually interjecting, “You want me to respond, or you just want to yell at me?” and Patrick later saying, “Don’t yell at me, Ted! You want to yell at other people, fine. Don’t yell at me!”

Dewhurst’s campaign put out a gleeful statement Friday containing a complete recording of the 34-minute interview, which Dewhurst adviser Mark Miner called “a train wreck appearance.”

“Ted Cruz had an epic meltdown when confronted with his pattern of lies,” Miner said.

Ironically, there’s long been no love lost between Dewhurst and Patrick, a leading grassroots figure in the Senate who founded the Texas Legislature’s Tea Party Caucus. As lieutenant governor since 2003, Dewhurst heads the Texas Senate and frequently clashed with Patrick, a Houston Republican, over legislation backed by the GOP’s far-right wing.

Cruz and Dewhurst face a July 31 runoff election for the GOP nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Neither won a majority in last month’s primary, which featured a nine-Republican field.

Though Patrick says he hasn’t endorsed either Dewhurst or Cruz, he has said Dewhurst supported 98 percent of the bills Patrick drafted in the Legislature. It was that praise that Cruz mentioned Thursday, triggering the on-air argument.

“Just to be clear, you have publicly endorsed Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst for Senate,” Cruz said.

“Now wait a minute. Time out Ted! That’s a lie,” Patrick shot back. “I have not endorsed him. Why don’t you get your facts straight on that, too?”

Patrick added, “I’ve tried to be a fair and honest broker to both of you, giving both of you time on this station.”

Patrick suggested that Cruz had no real understanding of the legislative process and Cruz countered that Patrick was asking questions planted by the Dewhurst campaign. Patrick then charged that Cruz was overly negative.

“I do respect you, and I do like you, and you are a conservative,” Patrick said, but continued, “just lay out what you want to be. Why do you have to attack everybody who disagrees with you or tells you you’re wrong?”

Patrick went on to suggest that Cruz has not been active in tea party politics in Harris County, which includes Houston, until recently, and other criticisms that started a whole new round of heated exchanges.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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