Days before the Texas primary, one of Sen. Ted Cruz's primary opponents was the target of the senator's own campaign calls.
Rather than asking Stefano de Stefano, a Republican running against Cruz, for his support in the March 6 primary, the caller, paid by Cruz’s campaign, repeatedly refused to acknowledge that race exists.
In a recording provided by de Stefano, the caller insisted that Cruz is in a general election contest against Democrat Beto O’Rourke and ignored inquiries about the March 6 primary.
Asked by de Stefano whether there are any Republicans running against Cruz, the caller replied, “right now sir this is a general election, it’s just him going up against Beto O’Rourke, a two-way ticket for that Senate spot.”
O’Rourke and Cruz both face primaries before that race. Cruz is expected to win his primary easily, and his challengers have struggled to raise funds or endorsements.
The caller who reached de Stefano identified himself from a campaign firm based in Iowa, Campaign HQ. Cruz paid that firm roughly $50,000 last month, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.
Campaign HQ’s website calls it a conservative fundraising, voter identification and campaign firm, known for its “creative solutions” and “quick turnaround.”
Cruz’s campaign declined to comment on the calls, but confirmed that it uses Campaign HQ as a vendor. The firm works for a number of conservative politicians, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“I find it insulting to Texas that Cruz – as the frontrunner, no less –felt it necessary to bring in activists from outside our state to interfere in Texas’ elections with blatant omissions to his constituents regarding his primary challengers,” de Stefano said.
It’s not the first time fellow Republicans have complained about Cruz’s campaign tactics.
In Cruz’s 2016 presidential bid, Iowa Republicans accused him of misleading voters with targeted mailers warning them of a “voting violation” that doesn’t actually exist.
Versions of that tactic have been used by other campaigns to apply social pressure to their likely supporters. Cruz publicly defended the mailers, which helped him win the Iowa caucus.
Iowa election officials disagreed, and Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate said at the time that the mailer "misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law.”
Then-candidate Donald Trump called them “dishonest and deceptive.”
A spokesman for Texas’ Secretary of State said the office had not received a complaint of an Election Code violation regarding the Cruz calls in Texas.
The caller who reached de Stefano, who has voted in Texas Republican primaries, went on to warn that “[Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer and other national Democrats are already ready to send millions to defeat [Cruz] and replace him” with a candidate like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.