Desperate to derail Donald Trump’s momentum in the Republican presidential primary going into Super Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz told Texas voters Monday that he’s their only viable choice.
“Donald Trump is not the right candidate to go head to head against Hillary Clinton,” Cruz told a crowd of around 1,000 gathered at Gilley’s, a well-known Dallas bar. “The only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump and the only campaign that can beat Donald Trump is us.”
The bitter battle for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations are driving most of the already high turnout for today’s election, but there’s a slew of hotly contested state and local races on the ballot.
Among them: the heated GOP battle for Tarrant County sheriff between incumbent Dee Anderson and challenger Bill Waybourn and high-dollar GOP legislative races between state Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford and Scott Fisher, state Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Arlington and Andrew Piel and state Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth and Bo French.
There are other contested races up and down the ballot — for statewide posts such as Texas Railroad Commission, local congressional and judicial seats and constable posts. There also are contested races to determine who will lead the local Republican and Democratic parties.
Cruz was among a parade of candidates and surrogates barnstorming the state Monday, hoping to claim as many as possible of the Lone Star State’s votes and generous number of delegates that can help make or break a candidate’s hopes of making it to the White House.
Trump has won three primary elections in a row, but Texas’ junior senator said he believes he will have a “very good Super Tuesday.”
When asked, after his politically star-studded rally that included Gov. Greg Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry, how big his win needs to be, Cruz said “a win in Texas is a win in Texas.”
He predicted that at the end of Super Tuesday, “Donald Trump is likely to have a big chunk of delegates. I think we will have a big chunk of delegates.”
Then, he said, the battle for the Republican Party’s nomination will become a two-man race.
Cruz threw a few verbal punches at the New York businessman and former reality TV star, saying, among other things, that Trump helped elect senators who supported a plan that would have given those illegally in the country a path to citizenship.
And Cruz promised, if elected, to do everything from defeat radical Islamic terrorists and rebuild the military to rip up the “catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal” and end the health care system known as Obamacare.
“It is Texans who will stand and lead and fight,” he said. “Standing together, we are going to win the Republican” nomination.
Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Texas, a large state that generally has a small voice in the presidential election, is in the unique position of making a significant impact in the race this year.
Political observers have long predicted that Texans could turn out in record numbers for this election, not just for the presidential race but also for the high-profile Tarrant County races.
Tarrant County voters already set new records for voting early in this race, topping the historically high numbers set in the 2008 presidential battle.
Statewide, early voting came close to the 2008 turnout, but didn’t match the large numbers: 1.1 million Texans voted early this primary, compared with 1.9 million Texans in 2008.
Tarrant County voters broke the historic turnout from eight years ago here, with 139,396 voters — 95,088 Republicans and 44,308 Democrats — heading to the polls early this year. In 2008, 123,343 local voters —36,759 Republicans and 86,584 Democrats — casting early votes, according to state election records.
‘We can trust him’
Kelly Hughes, a 56-year-old Dallas woman at Cruz’s rally, said she’s torn on who should get her vote Tuesday.
“I believe Cruz is more conservative than Trump but I believe Trump can get things done,” she said. “Cruz has been fighting but he gets blocked a lot.”
Abbott was among those appealing to Texas voters Monday for Cruz.
“America today is at a crossroads,” he said. “We need a leader to take us down the right path. That leader is Ted Cruz.
“This is our time to have a Texas-size impact on the [presidential race],” he said. “We can alter the course of this presidential primary and chart a course for a better America.”
Cruz, who said it was good to be home “with the greatest people on the face of the earth,” said much is at stake in this year’s presidential election.
“Our country is in crisis,” he said. “Our rights are under assault. The debt is drowning our children.”
And a weak America, he said, “is dangerous.”
If elected, he said he will put people back to work again and make this country safer.
Cruz said he will pass a simple flat tax, protect religious freedom and Second Amendment rights, abolish the IRS and end illegal immigration.
And, he said, he will “stand, unapologetic, with Israel.”
In November, he said, the general election will come down to “jobs, freedom and security.”
For now, Cruz called on Texans to help push his campaign farther to help give him steam to gain the Republican Party’s nomination.
State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, was among those in the crowd cheering on Cruz.
She said Texans put their faith in Cruz when they elected him to the U.S. Senate. And they should do so again now.
“Texans know Ted like no one else does,” said Burton, a longtime Cruz supporter. “He campaigned on issues, he went to Washington and he fought for those issues.
“We trusted him with our vote then,” she said. “He did what he said he would do. We can trust him with our vote again.”
Texas’ March 1 primary
To learn more about candidates on the March 1 ballot, check out the online Star-Telegram VoterS Guide.
Heading to the polls?
Anyone heading to the polls Tuesday should make sure to bring their photo IDs with them.
Acceptable IDs include a driver’s license, a state-issued personal ID card, concealed handgun license, military ID card, citizenship certificate with photo or a passport. Any license that’s expired must not be expired for more than 60 days.
Anyone who shows up at the polls to vote without a photo ID will be given a chance to go home and bring the ID back. If they don’t, they may cast a provisional ballot. But to make sure that vote is counted, they'll have to take a valid photo ID to the elections office within six days of the election. Otherwise the ballot will not be counted.
Source: Texas Secretary of State’s Office; Tarrant County Elections Office