Representative Beto O'Rourke speaks during a campaign rally in Plano, Texas, Sept. 15, 2018. Ted Cruz met with voters Thursday in Webster.
Toward the end of the hourlong debate, O'Rourke, the former punk rock bassist who in recent weeks has become a viral Hollywood darling, shouted out London genre pioneers the Clash, and said that Cruz was working for "the clampdown".
O'Rourke's candidacy has generated widespread enthusiasm among national Democrats, but his chances of defeating Cruz, one of the GOP's most high-profile and controversial figures, remain unclear. Cruz appeared to be referring to O'Rourke previously suggesting that inherent biases in the criminal justice system promote racism. A Quinnipiac poll showed the gap between the two as wider, with Cruz receiving 54 percent support among likely voters and O'Rourke receiving 45 percent support.
Cruz went on the attack moments after stepping on the stage, charging that his opponent suggested that police officers embodied "modern-day Jim Crow" laws in response to a question about a Dallas policewoman who shot and killed her unarmed, neighbor after mistakenly entering his apartment, thinking it was her own.
As for the O'Rourke campaign's claim that he wasn't criticizing police, Murphree said the candidate's point is crystal clear and "it's just offensive".
Cruz responded: "More armed police in our schools is not thoughts and prayers".
A truck mounted with a portable billboard of a February 2016 Trump tweet declaring, "Why would the people of Texas support Ted Cruz when he has accomplished nothing for them?" was parked near Friday's debate site. "Cruz, for your public service".
When Cruz stopped speaking, O'Rourke wryly deadpanned: "True to form".
Cruz said O'Rourke wanted to get rid of the Second Amendment, prompting O'Rourke to say that wasn't the case.
The next two debates are scheduled for September 30 in Houston and October 16 in San Antonio.
Cruz said that Dr. Martin Luther King would not have "stood for" Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protests, during which the NFL player famously kneeled pregame to bring awareness to police-involved violence.
It was a heated first Texas Senate debate Friday between between Sen.