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Beto O’Rourke airs Facebook Live ad amid accusations of ducking Cruz debate

October 1, 2018

Taking advantage of an open debate date, Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke used Sunday night in an unorthodox way: he filmed an ad live in his house and aired it on Facebook.

The modern-era social media campaigning is in line with Mr. O’Rourke’s projected image as a young, new face in Texas politics, which last saw a Democrat sitting in one of its two Senate chairs in 1993.

As it happens, the debate originally scheduled for Sunday night could have been held after all, according to the campaign of incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. The event was postponed once the confirmation process for Judge Brett Kavanaugh became embroiled in allegations of sexual misconduct and Mr. Cruz, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thought he would be unable to participate Sunday.

Mr. O’Rourke nevertheless seized the chance to make a down-home pitch one night before embarking on a campaign whirl to Texas colleges and universities where liberal support predominates.

Mr. O’Rourke’s team sent an email blast Sunday afternoon announcing an “important event” that would unfold live on the representative’s Facebook page, and the campaign urged supporters to gather at parties to watch in groups.

When the moment arrived, Mr. O’Rourke was in a kitchen and he began by talking to the supporters about how important it is to send a Democratic majority to the Capitol to block Supreme Court nominees like Mr. Kavanaugh, then he turned to filming the ad, in which he took a more centrist tack.

Mr. O’Rourke attacked ads by outside groups that he said unfairly characterize his positions. Mr. Cruz and groups supporting him have labored to tie Mr. O’Rourke to the resurgent left wing in the Democratic Party and its best-known standard-bearers in the Senate such as Bernard Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, while Mr. O’Rourke has tried to present himself as a more moderate version of those avatars.

Indeed, at the end of the race’s first debate, Mr. Cruz praised Mr. O’Rourke as a sincere disciple of the socialism advocated by Mr. Sanders.

“Now we can be defined by our fears or known by our ambitions,” Mr. O’Rourke said in the final take of his live Facebook filming. “I’m confident that when we see each other not as Democrats or Republicans but as Texans, as Americans, as human beings, there’s no stopping us.”

The campaign did not respond to questions Monday about what sort of response it received from its supporters and satellite parties.

It remained unclear if the scheduled debate at the University of Houston would occur at a later date; the two politicians are slated to debate again in San Antonio on Oct. 16.

Nevertheless, the Cruz campaign stuck with its label of Mr. O’Rourke’s no-show Sunday as a dodge.

“Beto O’Rourke was supposed to debate Sen. Ted Cruz tonight in front of millions of Texans,” campaign spokeswoman Emily Miller said. “Beto is scared that the debate would expose him to Texas viewers as a far-left liberal who is out of touch with their priorities and values.”

The ad, which had 315,000 views as of Monday afternoon, is expected to air in markets this week, according to the O’Rourke campaign.

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