Leah Payne headed downtown Monday, hoping to send a message to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
She and about a dozen others gathered outside the hotel where he was scheduled to speak, carrying signs that protested the potential confirmation of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education and noted that “Fort Worth Democratic women won’t back down.”
Payne didn’t know if Cruz would see them, but she hoped the protest sent a message to someone.
Cruz got the message.
And even though he was in a hurry to catch a plane back to Washington, D.C., he walked over to the protesters, shook each person’s hand, listened to their concerns — and posed for pictures with the group.
“He thanked us for being out here and for caring and making our voices heard,” Payne, president of the Tarrant County Democratic Womans Club, said after Cruz left. “I was very surprised. I thanked him for coming out to talk to us.”
But she and others don’t think they swayed his vote, especially since he told them that DeVos is a friend and he supports school choice.
“He listened, but I don’t think he will change his mind,” said Betsy Barbre, a 57-year-old Fort Worth woman who was part of the protest.
Cruz said that his office is receiving so many calls about the DeVos vote and other issues that he has “an army of people answering calls as fast as possible.” Payne said that’s all the more reason for people to continue reaching out to his office.
Cruz spoke with the protesters after talking to the Southwest Agriculture Issues Summit held inside the Worthington Renaissance Hotel.
At the summit, Cruz talked about the rare opportunity Republicans have with the GOP in charge of the House, Senate and White House.
“There are no more excuses,” he said.
“It’s not exactly a state secret that my relationship with Donald Trump has been up and down,” Cruz told he crowd. But he said he has spoken to the president about their mutual desire to honor their campaign promises, and he believes Congress will pass tax reform, repeal and replace “Obamacare,” and approve Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch by the end of 2017.
One thing I can promise: the next four years won’t be boring.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz
“One thing I can promise: the next four years won’t be boring,” he told those gathered at the summit.
He also spoke to the media about topics such as the president’s use of an executive order to create a temporary ban on refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations. He said he is hopeful and confident “we will see a real change in immigration policy” as a result of this order, which has been stalled by the courts.
To the protesters
Once outside, Cruz saw the crowd and headed over to them.
“I know you care about our kids,” he told them after listening to their concerns, which mainly centered around DeVos.
As a small crowd of onlookers gathered nearby, Cruz said he’s a strong proponent of school choice.
“The reason I care about choice is there are so many kids and especially minority kids — Hispanic kids, African American kids — that are trapped right now in schools,” Cruz said.
Bad schools, he said, can create “hopelessness and despair” for students and parents.
As protesters suggested that Cruz work to make those bad schools better, rather than move children out of them, Cruz nodded.
“What works is when you empower kids to have a choice and that improves the quality of public schools,” he said, noting that he also likes education savings accounts. “I want to see public schools get stronger … and I think school choice is the most effective means.
“Nobody loves your kids like you and I think parents are in the best position to make those choices.”
U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, face off Tuesday during a debate about the future of the Affordable Care Ac. The town hall debate will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday on CNN, CNN en Español, CNN International, CNNgo, Westwood One Radio Network and on CNN Channel 116 on Sirius XM.