Debate could roil surprisingly tight Senate race in Texas

DALLAS (AP) – Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke are holding their first debate as a Texas Senate race that once looked like it would be a cakewalk for the conservative incumbent now appears to be anything but one.

Democrats have long dreamed of flipping heavily Hispanic Texas and transforming the national electoral map.

O’Rourke is giving up his El Paso-based U.S. House seat to challenge Cruz. The Democrats haven’t won a Texas statewide office since 1994.

An ex-punk rocker, O’Rourke has visited areas that Democrats long ago abandoned. A strong showing Friday night at Southern Methodist University would turn more heads.

Cruz, a onetime Ivy League debate champion, finished second in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. But polls show that O’Rourke is staying close.

President Donald Trump will rally in Texas for Cruz next month, which was once unthinkable in the nation’s largest red state.

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