Tattoo Ted is back in the news.
And the California shock-sketch artist who drew a tattooed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is fine with that.
“It’s like I’m dreaming,” said Sabo — he just goes by Sabo — after the Rockwall County Republican Party adapted his 2014 poster of a tatted-up, street-tough Cruz as a campaign poster, labeling Cruz “Tough as Texas.”
The poster imagines Cruz with an American eagle across his chest and six-guns on his abs. Winston Churchill is on one bicep and a cigarette is dangling from Cruz’s mouth.
“I have to say,” Cruz joked when Sabo put the posters up in Los Angeles in March 2014 — “I noticed a glaring error. I don’t smoke cigarettes.”
“I had heard him speak a couple of times and thought he was rebellious,” Sabo said by phone.
“He sounded more brash than he looks. He was buttoned down, with this slick hair. But his attitude was more of a tail-kicker, a little more of a rebel.
“Out on Venice Beach they have these posters of Marilyn Monroe or James Dean with tattoos. I thought I’d show Cruz as a rebel.”
Sabo, who spent his childhood in Brownsville, had already ventured into Texas politics. A previous satirical poster showed a pregnant Barbie doll with the face of former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.
At first, Cruz and his 2016 presidential campaign staff embraced the Tattoo Ted poster and even sold it on his website. Sabo told the Austin American-Statesman he “never had this much money in my life.”
But in spring 2016, Cruz’s presidential campaign severed the partnership after Sabo tweeted derogatory statements about African-American social justice protestors.
He’s done much more artwork and posted more comments, some simply conservative or satirical but many meant to be shocking and offensive.
So it was a surprise when the Rockwall County Republican Party published Tattoo Ted as a campaign poster with the new headline, “Wanted — For Six More Years in US Senate.”
The party announced on Facebook: “The NEW SIGNS ARE HERE! … Limited availability!”
After a chorus of derisive comments on social media, some by Republicans, the party took the post down.
“The posters are gone,” said Laverne Kennimer, the county party chairwoman, adding, “Some people loved [the drawing] and some people hated it.”
The party has plenty of official Cruz signs now and doesn’t have to print its own, she said.
Sabo said it’s fine if Republicans use his artwork to help Cruz.
“I see a lot of [President] Obama in O’Rourke,” Sabo said, not as a compliment.
“Leftists can’t govern. That’s why they have to sell Beto another way — Beto skateboards, Beto’s in a punk band, Beto’s good-looking, that B.S.”
This isn’t just Whataburger Beto vs. Tattoo Ted.