Politics & Government

Cruz rallies Texas Republicans: ‘Have hope ... God is not done with America yet’

Ted Cruz thanks supporters at Texas GOP Convention

Senator Ted Cruz gets a warm reception at the Texas GOP Convention as he thanks the delegates for their support. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)
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Senator Ted Cruz gets a warm reception at the Texas GOP Convention as he thanks the delegates for their support. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)

Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, but Texas firmly remained Cruz Country as the state GOP convention wrapped up Saturday.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was given a hero’s welcome of sorts at the convention in Dallas, where he gave his first major speech since suspending his presidential bid. He was greeted by a standing ovation and shouts of “Cruuuuz.”

“God bless the great state of Texas,” he declared. “Thank you, thank you, thank you from the very bottom of my heart.”

“What now?” the longtime Tea Party firebrand asked thousands of Texas Republicans. “I don’t know what the future will hold, but I encourage each of you to have hope.”

He said the country may face challenging days ahead, but he doesn’t believe the movement “that begins in common-sense conservative principles” is a thing of the past.

“To those discouraged, truth will prevail,” Cruz said. “God is not done with America yet and Texans will lead the way.”

Cruz — welcomed by supporters waving “Thank you Ted” signs — didn’t even once utter the name of Donald Trump.

And he didn’t talk about a need to unite behind Trump to beat Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, which rankled some delegates.

“I couldn’t believe Cruz didn’t say something about unifying behind the presumptive nominee,” said Pat Carlson, a Fort Worth delegate, Trump supporter and former chairwoman of the Tarrant County Republican Party. “He only gave his campaign speech.”

But the need to unite behind Trump was mentioned Saturday by a campaign surrogate for the billionaire, U.S. Rep. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

Let’s put this tough primary behind us. ... We can and will unite.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a surrogate for Donald Trump

Sessions spoke about two hours after Cruz, to a crowd about half the size, but encouraged Texans to rally behind Trump who has promised to address key issues including the economy and immigration.

“This is a critical election,” he said, as some delegates raised signs that read “Thank you Ted” and “Go Trump.” “The American people are not happy.

“Let’s put this tough primary behind us,” he said. “We can and will unite.”

Cruz crew

Cruz was the highlight of the final day of the state GOP convention, which also included speeches from Attorney General Ken Paxton, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Tarrant County Commissioner Andy Nguyen.

Many had hoped to be a delegate on his behalf at the national convention and were disappointed he suspended his presidential campaign this month after a tough primary loss in Indiana.

They had hoped Cruz could force a contested national convention, which might have given him a chance to still claim the nomination.

After Indiana, Cruz told supporters that “it appears that path has been foreclosed.” But just days ago, Cruz seemed to leave the door open to rejoining the race if anything changed to give him a “path to victory.” Even though he suspended his campaign, he has not released his delegates.

Whatever happens, Texas Republicans were determined to show Cruz affection, pinning countless thank you notes to the Ted Cruz booth at their state convention.

During his speech, Cruz showed great appreciation, noting that Texas was among the states that helped him best 15 other Republican presidential hopefuls.

And he mentioned that his wife, Heidi, would have made an amazing first lady and his father, Rafael — who was chosen to be a national delegate — would have made an amazing first dad.

People ask if you’re disappointed. Of course you’re disappointed.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on suspending his presidential bid

“People ask if you’re disappointed,” he said. “Of course you’re disappointed.”

Fort Worth delegate Bo French said he was glad to hear Cruz’s message.

“He was humble, thankful and is committed to fighting for conservative principles,” he said. “Personally, I believe we need to beat Hillary and that needs to be the focus.

“That said, we need to resist the efforts in our party to water down the principles and values we all know work,” French said. “Ted certainly would have been a champion for those values. I am troubled that Trump doesn’t seem to reference the Constitution, but I am hopeful he will embrace the right people who will guide him in the right direction.”

Cruz’s speech did little to turn the hearts of some Texas Republicans to his former opponent.

Now, some will look to Trump for direction.

“We are going to see if Trump drops some of his policies that are very socialist,” said Lavonna Warner, a Dallas delegate. “I think he’s a despicable person. The way he ran the campaign was nasty.

“At the end of the day, we would love to come together to defeat Hillary. But I can’t vote for socialist policies to defeat socialist policies,” Warner said. “I’ll probably write Ted Cruz’s name on the ballot in November.”

Continuing message

Cruz spent time Saturday stressing to Texans that the conservative movement is not dead.

“That is a complete and utter lie,” he said. “Our rights don’t come from government. They come from God above.”

He repeated a few of his campaign points.

He said the country needs to abolish the IRS and pass a simple flat tax and conservatives need to protect and follow the Constitution and Bill of Rights. More than that, the federal government needs to “secure the borders, deliver our mail and keep us safe — that’s it,” he said.

He also weighed in on the simmering issue of who can go into which public restroom, based on the gender a person identifies with now or the one they were born with, one day after President Barack Obama’s administration sent out guidance on the issue to public schools across the country.

Restroom use has been a dominant issue at this year’s Republican state convention.

There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the president the power to be the bathroom police for this country.

Ted Cruz

“There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the president the power to be the bathroom police for this country,” Cruz said.

Party plank

Party officials Saturday said all of the more than 200 proposed planks to the party’s ever-evolving platform passed.

The party platform, reduced from 40 pages to 26 this year, is an outline of the party’s beliefs that candidates do not always, nor are required, to follow.

Among the planks approved were calling for term limits — three terms or 12 years maximum for any state or federal office — as well as calling for an Article V convention of the states, an end to red-light cameras and gun-free zones and a continued opposition to gambling.

Added to the platform was a Freedom of Conscience plank, which would let businesses turn down work they don’t agree with if it means creating a product that doesn’t currently exist such as a painting, cake or floral arrangement, and a plank supporting “legislation allowing for industrial hemp cultivation in Texas.”

The platform states that homosexuality “is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible” and “must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples.”

Regarding therapy to help gay Texans reject their homosexual lifestyle, the platform states that “no laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to sexual orientation change efforts for self-motivated youth and adults.”

And a “gender identity,” or bathroom plank, was added, stating that Republicans “urge the enactment of legislation addressing individuals’ use of bathrooms, showers and locker rooms that correspond with their biologically determined sex.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley