Risk of Dikeman v O’Rourke Debate Forced Ted Cruz to Debate Beto
Press Release, Houston TX, Oct 18, 2018
After months of unsuccessful high profile attempts by Beto O’Rourke to bring Republican Senator Ted Cruz to the debate table, Cruz agreed to a series of debates with O’Rourke less than 48 hours following one letter to Beto from Libertarian US Senate Nominee Neal Dikeman, in order to forestall a potential Dikeman v O’Rourke debate.
As was reported in the Texas Tribune and others, Congressman Beto O’Rourke had been struggling to get Senator Ted Cruz to commit to debate since April without success, despite extremely strong polls for a Democrat in Texas. O’Rourke attempts included calls from the stump, media appeals, and a well publicized challenge to debate in Spanish, and had been picked up in hundreds of media sources. A formal proposal for 6 debates issued on April 24, asked for a May 10 decision timeline. Cruz successfully ignored the call for 91 days.
In the last US Senate race in Texas in 2014, John Cornyn delayed the single debate until Oct 24, 13 days before the election, until after the race was effectively decided. According to Texas Election Source, most Texas races have no debates as Republican candidates have used debate avoidance in a traditionally Red state to solidify a 24 year win streak.
However, on Wed Jul 25, well before analysts expected a Cruz response, with no new public action from the Beto O’Rourke campaign or polling changes, multiple media sources reported the Cruz campaign publicly agreed to debate O’Rourke five times. That was later negotiated down by Cruz to three, and when he later withdrew from one of the three, it was subsequently cancelled.
Two days prior on Jul 23, Libertarian candidate Neal Dikeman published an Open Letter to Beto O’Rourke, specifically excluding Ted Cruz, proposing 2 debates with O’Rourke, the first without Ted Cruz, the second with, at UT, Texas A&M, or Sul Ross State.
Within hours of publication on the 23rd Editor Thomas Warren of the Amarillo Pioneer ran the Letter as a guest column titled Dikeman: I’ll Debate O’Rourke. It was the only publication other than Nealdikeman.com and BetoforTexas.com that ran the letter prior to Cruz’s announcement.
Within hours of publication by the Pioneer, the official website of Beto O’Rourke’s campaign, BetoforTexas.com, quietly ran the Pioneer article on a back page, not their main press page, titled Dikeman: I’ll Debate O’Rourke, for an audience of one, Ted Cruz.
On August 10, Ted Cruz’s campaign manager Jeff Roe, met with Dikeman in Houston, and on a direct request to debate, communicated that Cruz would not agree to include Dikeman in any debates under any circumstances. At no point did any member of the O’Rourke campaign return our calls.
Finally around the time Cruz and O’Rourke publicly agreed to their debate schedule on Sep 14, and sometime after August 27, the O’Rourke campaign quietly took down the Amarillo Pioneer article from BetoforTexas.com, but neglected to delete the URL.
We believe the Cruz campaign intended to debate O'Rourke as few times a possible and as late in the season as possible to minimize impact on undecided voters.
In the 2014 Senate race the Libertarian took 2.9% of the vote, enough to cover the current spread in the polls most favorable to O’Rourke, and change the Texas race. In September Reason.org wrote a Libertarian impact is possible in Texas and 5 other states in Senate races this year. It is clear that our actions at a minimum changed the timing, trajectory and forced the Cruz campaign to commit to more debates weeks earlier than they had planned, out of fear that Beto and Dikeman on a debate stage without them could cost Cruz the race.
The speed at which Ted Cruz abandoned his debate delay tactics in response to Beto’s use of Dikeman’s offer, calls into question the validity of Cruz’s public statements that our Libertarian support is not strong enough to warrant a debate. Cruz could politically afford to ignore the Democrat, he couldn’t afford to ignore the Libertarian.
Libertarian candidate Neal Dikeman is one of 3 nominees on the ballot for US Senator in Texas in 2018, and has been excluded from every debate.