Tea partier Ted Cruz vies for open Texas Senate seat

Following Republican primary victories in Utah, Indiana and Nebraska, the tea party movement is hoping for more good news on Tuesday in Texas, where Ted Cruz is taking on the Republican establishment in his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Cruz, a Cuban-American lawyer who served as state solicitor general, is vying for the GOP nomination against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who has long been regarded as the favorite for the open seat race. Tea party groups, including FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Express, Grassroots America-We the People, as well as high-profile supporters such as Sarah Palin, have rallied around Cruz as their next opportunity to send a message to the national Republican Party.

"Stand With Conservatives Against the Establishment," reads a fundraising banner on on Cruz's website, with a photo of Rick Santorum, who publicly endorsed Cruz last week.

Cruz is hoping to hold Dewhurst to under 50 percent Tuesday, an outcome that would force the two candidates into a July 31 runoff.

Dewhurst is experienced, personally wealthy, well-known and well-connected in the state. And he has been endorsed by Mike Huckabee, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Gov. Rick Perry, who currently appears in a campaign ad for his second-in-command.

Throughout the campaign, Cruz has sought to paint Dewhurst as a moderate. But Dewhurst has turned that attack around in the last week, arguing that Cruz supports amnesty for illegal immigrants.

"Cruz helps run two national organizations that have been leading the push to get amnesty to illegal immigrants," says the narrator in a new Dewhurst radio ad. "He's on their boards." And in a bid to undercut Cruz's outsider credentials, the ad claims that the organizations he helps run are populated by "D.C. guys."

Cruz's campaign and his supporters reject the accusations, saying that Cruz has never supported amnesty. They label the attacks as "desperate" and a sign that Dewhurst sees Cruz as a serious threat.

There are four candidates on the Republican ballot for the U.S. Senate, increasing the odds of a runoff. Former Dallas mayor and businessman Tom Leppert and former pro football player Craig James are also competing to for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and political newcomer Paul Hubbard lead the race to compete for the Senate in the fall.

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