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In an online video ad, U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Cruz likens Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to the mythical chupacabra, saying his opponent -- the Republican frontrunner for the seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison after 2012 -- isn’t engaging with his opponents. Specifically, the narrator says: "Since he entered the race on July 21, Dewhurst has skipped nine candidate forums."
Nine skips in nine forums?
Cruz’s campaign passed us a list of nine Senate candidate forums that took place from July 21 through Sept. 15, 2011, with contact information for each event’s organizer. And in telephone interviews, forum organizers confirmed to us that Dewhurst did not appear at the gatherings.
The Cruz campaign did not list an Aug. 28 event near Sugar Land, organized on behalf of U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Houston; both the Dewhurst and Olson campaigns confirmed that the lieutenant governor and other GOP Senate candidates attended and were given five minutes each to speak.
Thus, out of 10 forums between July 21 and Sept. 15, Dewhurst did not appear at nine.
But is not showing up the same as skipping? We wondered.
The organizers of seven forums told us Dewhurst’s campaign told them beforehand that Dewhurst would not participate.
Exceptions: Marc Moffitt of the Denton County Republican Party said Dewhurst’s camp said he couldn’t come until after he declared his candidacy and then he announced his candidacy the same July night as the party’s forum, meaning he wasn’t even a candidate until then. And Toby Walker of the Waco Tea Party said she never heard from Dewhurst’s camp about her invitations to its Aug. 13, 2011, event. Walker said: "It’s almost worse never to get a response. It’s like you’re not worthy."
Among other forum organizers, Dean Wright, who steered the July 30, 2011, Austin Tea Party forum, said the group set out a chair for Dewhurst in case he changed his mind. Robert "Gonzo" Gonzalez, overseeing an August forum for the Clear Lake Tea Party, said Dewhurst’s camp told him it was "early in the campaign (to attend); I accepted that." Capy Alexander of the Republican Women of Kerr County said Dewhurst’s camp sounded interested in its Aug. 19, 2011, event, but "as it turns out, he was unable to come. I don’t know why."
Most of the nine organizers told us they did not view Dewhurst’s non-attendance as "skipping." Maria Acosta of the Central Texas 9-12 Project said she would better describe its Aug. 20, 2011, gathering as a "lost opportunity."
However, Katrina Pierson of the Garland Tea Party said that even though Dewhurst’s campaign said before its Sept. 15, 2011, event that Dewhurst had a prior commitment, she still views him as skipping out because the group initially told him about its plans in May.
The Dewhurst campaign responded by stating that Dewhurst was acting governor on six of the nine event dates listed by Cruz and had a previously scheduled Republican event on another.
Dewhurst himself, after he held an Austin town hall event Oct. 3, told us, "There is a whole other dynamic that folks are forgetting. Every week now for six weeks in a row, and maybe for another 13, 14 or 15 months, I’m the acting governor. ... I’m having a hard enough time just to go out and do some of our campaign events when we have both paperwork, responsibilities -- when we had the Bastrop (wild)fire, I was over there almost the whole week, totally consumed by it. So state business for me comes first."
Of the candidate forums, Dewhurst said: "Quite frankly, I’m interested in getting our message out to the people, not necessarily spending a disproportional amount of time (with) the candidates talking to each other. … What I think is in the voters’ best interest is to hear from the candidates, and so that’s what we’re doing. We’re going to almost a different city every day."
Looking forward, he said, that "as we can, we’re going to go to a forum or so every month." This month, he said, he plans to appear at an Oct. 21 candidate forum hosted by the Spirit of Freedom Republican Women PAC in Sugar Land.
Our take: Dewhurst did not appear at nine forums, eight of them after the night he announced his candidacy. But it’s a mite questionable to say he outright skipped the events. In most cases, his campaign said beforehand Dewhurst wasn’t going to appear.
We rate Cruz’s statement Mostly True.
Ted Cruz campaign video, "Spotted!," Duckingdewhurst.com, Sept. 21, 2011
Interview, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Oct. 3, 2011
Telephone interview, Marc Moffitt, volunteer, Denton County Republican Party, Sept. 30, 2011
Telephone interview, Dean Wright, director, New Revolution Now, Austin, Sept. 30, 2011
Telephone interview, Robert "Gonzo" Gonzalez, chairman, Clear Lake Tea Party, Friendswood, Sept. 30, 2011
Telephone interview, Toby Walker, president, Waco Tea Party,Sept. 30, 2011
Telephone interview, Capy Alexander, president, Republican Women of Kerr County, Sept. 30, 2011
Telephone interview, Maria Acosta, president, Central Texas 9-12 Project, Sept. 30, 2011
Telephone interview, Jan Horne, volunteer, Northwood Dallas Republican Women, Sept. 30, 2011
Telephone interview, Diane Fulton, volunteer, Austin Republican Women, Sept. 30, 2011
Telephone interview, Katrina Pierson, founder, Garland Tea Party, Sept. 30, 2011
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