Ted Cruz spent a half-decade defending Texas in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, he wants to defend Texas against what he asserts is the most radical presidential administration in history as the state's next U.S. Senator.
Cruz recently entered the GOP fracas that ensued after U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced she wasn't running for re-election in 2012. So far, the field also includes Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones, former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams and presumably — he hasn't officially announced — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
As part of the Tribune's continuing series of interviews with declared candidates for the senate seat, Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, sat down with us last week to talk about what makes him stand out in the GOP crowd, how his job as Texas solicitor general prepared him for the U.S. Senate and the Republican leaders whom he considers idols.
An edited transcript and video of the interview are below.
TT: Why should you be the next U.S. Senator from Texas?
Cruz: We are quite literally facing the epic battle of our generation. In my view, President Obama is the most radical president ever to occupy the White House and he is a true believer in government, in government control of the economy in gov control of our every day lives and I think there is an incredible need for leadership in wash to stand up and defend free market principles and limited government and the principles of the constitution.
TT: What sets you apart from other GOP candidates in the fight for minority voters?
Cruz: I don’t tend to be a fan of identity politics and racial politics. I am running for this position, U.S. Senate, because I believe I’ve got the strongest proven record as a conservative, standing up, fighting for conservative principles and winning on a national level.
TT: How has the job of Texas solicitor general prepared you for the U.S. Senate?
Cruz: During the tenure that I was serving as solicitor general, Texas repeatedly led the nation, standing up, fighting for conservative principles and winning on a national level. A few examples: We defended the Ten Commandments monument that stands outside the Texas Capitol. We took it to the Supreme Court and we won, 5-4. We defended the pledge of allegiance when a federal court in California struck it down. We went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and we won unanimously. We defended the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, we brought together 31 states in support of the amendment, went to the Supreme Court and we won, 5-4. And most significantly in a case called Medellin vs. Texas we stood up to an order from the World Court, … which is the judicial arm of the United Nations, tried to bind the United States and order the U.S. to reopen the convictions of 51 murderers across this country. Texas stood up to the World Court. We went to the U.S. Supreme Court — I had the honor of arguing this case twice in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. On the other side were 90 nations and was the president of the United States. And we stood up and we defended U.S. sovereignty, and we won 6-3.
TT: On a scale of Kay Bailey Hutchison to Christine O’Donnell, where would you place yourself as a conservative?
Cruz: Number one let me give you the right answer for a Republican candidate, which is Ronald Reagan, and it happens to be not just the right answer but actually true. For me, I very much came of age and was in school when President Reagan was president and he exemplified for me what it meant to stand for principle, to stand for individual liberty to stand for limited government and to believe powerfully in American exceptionalism. I’ll give you a second example, a little more recent and a little more of Texas vintage. Of recent Texas politicians, I think the elected official whose policy views are most similar to mine was probably U.S. Senator Phil Gramm. He was someone who in the U.S. Senate stood up repeatedly and defended free market principles. I’ll never forget back in 1994 when Hillarycare was about to pass and almost every republican in the senate was utterly spineless and afraid to oppose it and Phil Gramm stood up and said, ‘This will pass over my cold, dead political body.’ And if Sen. Gramm hadn’t had the courage to stand up and oppose the government takeover of health care, everything we’ve seen with Obamacare would have occurred in 1994. That’s the kind of leadership we need is principled defense of free market that can also, just as President Reagan was able to do, articulate and explain that liberty protects the rights of everyone and protects the opportunity of everyone.
TT: As the son of a Cuban immigrant, how would you approach immigration in the U.S. Senate?
Cruz: I think anyone looking seriously at the issue of immigration, particularly in a post 9-11 world, realizes we have to seriously secure the border, we have to enforce the law. I strongly oppose illegal immigration, and I do not support amnesty, and I never will support amnesty, because I think as a matter of national security and as a matter of respect for rule of law we need to secure the border and know who’s entering this country. And I don’t think we’ve treated that seriously in the past.
Secondly, and I think equally important with that, we need to remain a nation that not just tolerates but welcomes and celebrates immigrants as part of who we are and part of what makes American exceptional. As you noted, my dad came as an immigrant from Cuba in 1957. He fought in the revolution; he was thrown in prison; he was tortured. And he fled, arriving here in Austin. He was 18 years old, he didn’t speak a word of English, and he had directions to the University of Texas, and he went and got a job as a dishwasher making 50 cents an hour. And he worked full-time, and he paid his way through UT and went to work and then started a business and worked towards the American dream. And I think that story, what is so compelling about that story, and my dad is been my hero my whole life, … is how commonplace it is. You and I and everyone has a story like that we’re a nation where all of our ancestors came here seeking freedom and opportunity.
TT: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst will have plenty of campaign money. How will you stay competitive?
Cruz: If he chooses to run my approach to this race will be consistent. I don’t intend to say a negative thing about anybody in this race.
I think we are going to manage to raise a very substantial amount of money there’s no doubt that to run a statewide campaign you need resources. As you know I spent much of 2009 campaigning for attorney general during that campaign we enjoyed extraordinary success. We ended up raising over $1.3 million, we had nearly 1,000 donors from over 100 Texas cities and 25 states. And we also saw support from virtually every conservative leader statewide in Texas, from over 100 leaders of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, from a majority of the state Republican Executive Committee, and from an incredible grassroots and political network. That network will serve as the foundation really, I hope, for this Senate race.
TT: Is Dewhurst the frontrunner in this race?
Cruz: I don’t think there’s any candidate who’s a shoo-in. My view of a race is money is necessary but it’s not sufficient. If money was enough, then Tony Sanchez would be governor of Texas, who spent in excess $70 million trying to run for governor and didn’t win. If money was enough, Meg Whitman would be governor of California. She just spent $140 million and didn’t win. You got to be able to raise money to communicate with the voters, but at the end of the day the real question is do you have the right message and are you standing for the principles that the voters care about.