U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz stopped by McGregor on the first day of his re-election campaign, rallying Republicans with themes of conservative values and Texas pride but warning of an energized opposition.
“The extreme left in November, they’re going to show up in big numbers,” the senator told the crowd Monday at Schmalreide Farm in southwest McLennan County. “They’re energized, they’re angry, they hate the president and they’re going to shatter records. That means each of us has a responsibility. Each of us has a responsibility because freedom doesn’t defend itself.”
Cruz, R-Texas, faces a midterm challenge in November from U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso. Cruz began his campaign Monday in Beaumont, followed by stops in Tyler, McGregor and Stafford. At the McGregor stop he took on hot-button issues of gun control and immigration and touted a “tough as Texas” campaign theme.
“It is an incredible privilege to represent each and every one of you, to fight for each and every one of you, to stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, in the foxhole with each and every one of you to defend the values that makes Texas great,” Cruz said. “There are fifty states, but there’s only one Texas.”
He hailed heroes that he said exemplified the Texas spirit, such as the emergency responders to Hurricane Harvey, the men who stopped the church shooter in Sutherland Springs and the farmers of Texas.
“Texas is America on steroids,” he said.
Cruz criticized former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who recently suggested that the Second Amendment should be repealed. He also attacked the New York Times editorial board and the federal bureaucracy, which he quipped “has experience with (agriculture) because the company business in Washington is shoveling manure.”
As a candidate in the Republican primary for the 2016 presidential election, Cruz traded barbs with Trump, who repeatedly called Cruz “Lyin’ Ted.” Cruz blasted Trump for insulting his wife’s appearance and for implying without evidence that his father was involved in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Cruz eventually endorsed Trump and continued in the Senate as one of its most conservative members. In February, he cast the sole vote against legislation to provide a path to citizenship for so-called “Dreamers,” young unauthorized immigrants shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program. Trump signed an order in September to end the Obama program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but litigation has kept the program alive past its March 5 expiration date.
Cruz accused other Republican senators of holding a policy position more liberal than former President Barack Obama.
“I think when it comes to immigration, the priority of Texas is to start with securing the border,” Cruz said. “Until that is done, Texans don’t want to see major reforms on immigration based on empty promises of border security.”
He also vigorously defended the Second Amendment, which is under national debate after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead. Stevens recently called for the amendment’s repeal in a New York Times op-ed. Cruz assailed his opponent for winning an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association.
O’Rourke, a three-term congressman, brought in $2.3 million in campaign donations in the first six weeks of 2018, according to federal records. That amount is almost three times what Cruz raised in that time. But the incumbent, at last filing period, held about $6 million to O’Rourke’s $4.9 million.
In the March primary, O’Rourke gathered 61 percent of the vote against two relatively unknown candidates. More than 1 million people voted in the Democratic primary, while Cruz — facing four challengers — won 1.3 million Republican votes.
A Democrat last won a Texas Senate race in 1988.
Wesley Lloyd, president of the McLennan County Republican Club, was unfazed by O’Rourke’s candidacy.
“(Democrats) might be growing success by getting turnout in their primary and generating interest among their voters, and that can matter,” Lloyd said. “But ultimately, at the end of the day, there’s not going to be more Democratic voters in Texas than there are Republicans.”