Senate race showdown heats up as Ted Cruz hosts town halls

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas walks down the steps of Air Force One after arriving with President Donald Trump for the National Rifle Association Leadership Conference, Friday, April 28, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas walks down the steps of Air Force One after arriving with President Donald Trump for the National Rifle Association Leadership Conference, Friday, April 28, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — With one United States Senate seat opening up in 2018, the candidates spent the Fourth of July weekend vigorously campaigning.

Those pitches to voters include a series of town hall forums hosted by incumbent Ted Cruz.

Cruz spent the holiday weekend in McAllen, with a rally before participating in a parade. He was met with supporters, but also protesters, many of whom held signs of support for his challenger, Beto O’Rourke.

O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, walked in Lubbock’s Fourth on Broadway parade with local Democrats. The topic of health care was a theme that continued through the weekend.

“If you want something better for your community, if you want to focus on jobs and the economy and making sure everyone has access to health care, then you’ve got to work for it,” O’Rourke said on Monday.

Cruz has held out his his support for Senate Republicans’ version of the plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

“Health insurance costs being too high… I tell you, I agree,” he said Tuesday. “I hear that from Texans all over the state, who face premiums skyrocketing under Obamacare who want relief. My focus is to lower premiums so health insurance is more affordable.”

Cruz’s town hall series brings conversation about health care for veterans to McKinney on Wednesday, Austin on Thursday and Houston on Saturday.

According to a press release from his office, Cruz planned to participate in “a Q&A session with attendees, discuss the issues impacting veterans and their families, and share his efforts to bring reform to the Department of Veterans Affairs, including his recent VA Information Technology Restructuring Act.”

Texas Politics Project’s James Henson said, “Cruz is clearly trying to assert some leadership, whether it’s going to work or not, or what his expectations are — or not — are another thing.”

“I think Cruz has both short term and long term interests at mind here,” Henson added. “It’s hard not to look at this and not see both the immediate benefit of Cruz asserting himself and being central to the debate, and making sure that that conveys at home as well, knowing that he is going to have at least something of a challenge coming up.”

Senate Republicans have yet to formally announce when they expect to call for a vote on their health care bill, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote until after the holiday weekend.

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