AUSTIN — The Texas Republican Party posted a series of tweets on Wednesday attacking U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke for not agreeing to participate in a debate against Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday.

The tweets used a photo of O’Rourke holding a skateboard at a recent campaign stop, a photo of the Democrat and his former punk-rock band, and a decades-old mugshot to show why O’Rourke might be “ducking debates” with Cruz.

Cruz and his challenger O’Rourke have been debating the finer points of their debate schedule since April, when O’Rourke challenged the incumbent to a series of six debates.

Cruz didn’t acknowledge the challenge and months later issued his own invitation to O’Rourke that included five debates scheduled on specific dates in specific cities, including one in Dallas on Friday.

O’Rourke agreed to debate Cruz but requested that changes be made to the list of events, including moving some to weekdays instead of Friday nights.

O’Rourke on Monday said that Friday’s debate “is not going to happen” and that his team is working with Cruz’s campaign to schedule future events.

That statement didn’t stop the Texas Republican Party from poking fun at O’Rourke on Twitter. In one tweet, they used an image of O’Rourke with a skateboard (which was used in a clip of him skateboarding in the Whataburger parking lot that spread online) with a text overlay: “Sorry, I’m going to have to skate on the debate Friday. I just got this killer board. I’m sure the voters won’t mind.”

The Texas GOP account also used a photo of O’Rourke with members of his punk-rock band Foss as part of the thread, with words printed over the photo, “Sorry, can’t debate. We have a gig.”

The account also posted a mugshot of O’Rourke, alluding to his 1998 arrest for driving under the influence. The case was dismissed the following year after he completed a court-recommended DWI-program.

O’Rourke was also arrested in 1995 and charged with burglary, after he and a few friends climbed under the fence of a building on UTEP’s campus and triggered an alarm system. The charges were later dropped.

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The posts generated thousands of responses, many from the Democrat’s supporters who used a heavy dose of sarcasm in their replies.

But the Texas GOP account didn’t waver.

“Based on the reaction to our tweets we can confirm that Beto is in fact going to receive 100% of the vote from Buzzfeed contributors, out of state liberals, and people who use the word ‘rad’,” read a tweet. “We feel very owned :'(”

Madlin Mekelburg is a reporter with the USA Today Network Austin Bureau; she may be reached at 512-479-6606;; @madlinbmek on Twitter.


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