U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz firmly believes that Texas and Tarrant County will stay red this year — if party faithful head to the polls.
As many speculate whether the “blue wave” expected to sweep the country this year will impact the Lone Star State, especially here, in one of the country’s reddest areas, Cruz acknowledged that Democrats are angry, energized and ready to vote this year.
That makes 2018 “a turnout election,” he told the Star-Telegram Saturday night, before talking to a crowd of hundreds gathered at the Omni Hotel for the Tarrant County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner. “The far left is going to turn out. They are so angry. They will show up no matter what.
But “if conservatives show up, Texas will stay bright red,” he said.
Cruz — a former presidential candidate whose grassroots strongholds have long included the Dallas-Fort Worth area — worked to energize local Republicans Saturday night, as he was the keynote speaker for the event that raises money to fund local GOP efforts over the next year.
As he and other Republicans gathered inside, about 40 Democrats gathered outside, holding signs that promoted U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat challenging Cruz for his Senate seat.
“I just want leaders to see that unity means including every person,” said Pam DeVoe, a Fort Worth woman who joined the protest. “It’s all great to talk about unity and unifying, but please do it.
“There are a lot of people out there who feel they aren’t being heard.”
Cruz, who in the past has stopped to talk with protesters, didn’t have time to do that Saturday night.
He said he supported their right to protest and express their opinion, even though they likely have very different viewpoints.
“Texas is not a state of liberals,” he said when asked about the protesters. “There are some. ... But that’s not the majority of Texans.
“I don’t think [their liberal] views reflect the common sense and values of the overwhelming majority of Texans.”
It was just a small group that stood outside the Omni Saturday, much smaller than the throng that crowded the area last year, protesting some elected officials who traditionally attend the annual event.
This year, it was close to 40, but the numbers didn’t phase them.
They stood outside for more than two hours, holding Beto signs, U.S. flags and balloons.
Last year, many of those gathered held signs calling on local congressional members, primarily U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, to hold town hall meetings so they could voice their opinions about issues Congress was addressing.
This year, the group focused primarily on Cruz.
“We want him to notice there are a lot of Texans strongly behind Beto,” said Kris Savage, part of the leadership team for Indivisible FWTX. “We thought if we brought really big signs, he would know.”
But she did say they hoped other elected officials, from state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, to Granger, would notice them as well.
“We want them to know the grassroots is out there and people are looking for representatives who listen to them,” she said.
Diana Schlotterback, a 34-year-old Aledo woman and DeVoe’s daughter, said she would have liked to see more people turn out for the protest.
Even though they didn’t, “I can still do this,” she said. “I feel it’s time to stand up and be brave, even if it’s just me and my mom and a handful of other people.”
The high-dollar annual Republican fundraiser drew a distinguished list of GOP leaders including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, U.S. Reps. Michael Burgess and Kenny Marchant, state Sens. Konni Burton, Kelly Hancock and Jane Nelson, Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, local state representatives and more.
Cruz, who is seeking his second term in office, noted before the event that Republicans were given an “incredible opportunity” last year — the chance to lead not just the White House, but also both chambers of Congress.
To maintain that, he said the party must continue their “record of delivering on our promises” on issues such as tax reform.
Eliminating, or revamping the Affordable Health Care Act known as “Obamacare” remains a key issue they must address.
“We need to get the job done on Obamacare,” he said.
But in general, he said, he believes “Texans are very happy” with GOP leadership moves that have brought more jobs, and higher wages, to many locally and across the country.
Patrick encouraged local Republicans to head to the polls this year
He said this year is more important than ever because he believes Democrats are running candidates in the GOP primary and will vote there as well.
“We need a big turnout so that ends,” he said. “They are counting on Republicans to not turn out.”