Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz will debate live on Tuesday October 16th, 2018.
Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz will debate live before a studio audience on Tuesday. Credit: Composite / Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

About 120 people will be watching incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) debate live Tuesday in a San Antonio television studio. Millions more likely will be tuning in via KENS 5, other Texas TEGNA-owned TV stations, and online across the nation as the rivals battle it out for the Senate seat.

This was to be the third debate in the closely watched race, but the second debate, scheduled for Sept. 30 in Houston, was canceled because of  Cruz’s participation in the Senate’s confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. While the first debate in Dallas was focused on domestic policy, this one is expected to cover domestic and foreign policy.

The San Antonio event, which starts at 8 p.m., may be the final meeting between the two candidates before early voting in the midterm election begins Oct. 22.

“We’re excited to host this debate at KENS and are working to make sure Texans hear as much as they can from the candidates before Election Day,” stated Jack Acosta, KENS news director.

To assemble the audience at the KENS studio, each campaign was given half of the tickets to distribute, a spokesperson said. The debate will be livestreamed on KENS’ website and Facebook page.

O’Rourke’s campaign is hosting a debate watch party at 7:30 p.m. at Palo Alto College Performing Arts Center with Democrat leaders such as State Sen. Jose Menéndez (D-San Antonio) and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Cruz’s campaign is organizing a 5:30 p.m. debate watch party at the Old San Francisco Steakhouse, 10223 Sahara Drive. Cruz is expected to make an appearance after the debate.

The Bexar County Democratic Party is hosting a debate watch party from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Friendly Spot Ice House at 943 S. Alamo St.

Ahead of the debate, O’Rourke will speak at a campaign event at 5 p.m. Monday at Plaza Guadalupe, 1327 Guadalupe St.

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The Texas Tribune reported that in the first debate at Southern Methodist University, “the candidates exchanged rhetorical blows on just about every single question, showing off sharp differences that have long been evident in the race. But what stood out was O’Rourke’s combative posture toward Cruz after spending his campaign until this point largely ignoring the incumbent and his attacks.”

O’Rourke raised more than three times as much as Cruz (more than $12 million) over the past three months, according to the Tribune. The record-breaking $38.1 million raised by O’Rourke made it the largest fundraising quarter for a U.S. Senate race.

According to KENS, about 85 percent of people who watch television in Texas will be able to view the debate on 11 Texas stations owned by TEGNA:

  • KENS (San Antonio)
  • KVUE (Austin)
  • WFAA (Dallas)
  • KHOU (Houston)
  • KCEN (Waco)
  • KAGS (College Station)
  • KYTX (Tyler)
  • KIII (Corpus Christi)
  • KBMT-KJAC (Beaumont)
  • KXVA (Abilene)
  • KIDY (San Angelo)

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at