The five Republican contenders for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat debated for the first time Thursday night at a forum sponsored by the conservative Austin groups the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Empower Texans. 

Kate Alexander of the Austin American-Statesman framed it as a battle between Ted Cruz and frontrunner David Dewhurst, noting that Cruz “ignored the other three candidates,” which included former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, former sports broadcaster Craig James, and funeral home director Glenn Addison. 

As the Texas Tribune‘s Ross Ramsey noted in his live-blog, Cruz said of Dewhurst, “He’s missed 19 debates so far, and I welcome him to this stage,” referring to various other campaign forums around the state at which the lite guv was not present.

Cruz hammered at Dewhurst over taxes and government spending, calling Dewhurst “a timid career politician” and himself  “a proven conservative and fighter.”

Kimberly Reeves at the Quorum Report observerd, “Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ran against Pres. Barack Obama. Former Solicitor General Ted Cruz ran against Dewhurst.”

Former college football broadcaster Craig James came out firing, in a sense, with an introductory statement in support of the Second Amendment: “I have a pistol and a shotgun between my mattresses,” he said. And dark-horse funeral director Glenn Addison got rave reviews for humor and demeanor (“the evening’s crowd-pleaser,” said Ramsey). 

WFAA Brad Watson’s report includes video highlights of the debate.