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It's not every day that a white candidate for the U.S. Senate demands to debate a Latino candidate in Spanish. But that's what has happened in Texas, where Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has issued such a challenge to rival Ted Cruz.

Debates were supposed to play to Cruz's strength in the runoff for the GOP Senate nomination. After all,  Cruz was a winner at the 1992 U.S. National Debating Championships, which were in English. Recently, Cruz has been attacking Dewhurst for dodging one-on-one debates, but he was more circumspect when challenged to debate in Spanish.

"I would welcome a debate with Dewhurst in any form, but I think we would have a better debate if we did the debate in English," Cruz, who is a second-generation Cuban-American, said in an interview with Univision. "I grew up here speaking Spanglish."

Dewhurst picked up Spanish while living in Bolivia in the 1970s, while working for the Central Intelligence Agency.

"When I came back from Bolivia, my Spanish was in some ways as good as my English," Dewhurst told the Houston Chronicle. "I  am rusty today. But I am comfortable talking in Spanish. I am not flawless or fluent, but I am comfortable. It takes me a day or two speaking a lot of Spanish to get back into a rhythm."

 

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

This article is part of our Next America: Communities project, which is supported by a grant from Emerson Collective.

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