After Rand Paul Exits, Cruz Wins New Supporters in Texas

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a pre-caucus rally at Grace Baptist Church in Marion, Iowa on February 1, 2016. Marion is the last stop on  Cruz's second weeklong bus tour before he heads to Des Moines to await the results of Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus.
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a pre-caucus rally at Grace Baptist Church in Marion, Iowa on February 1, 2016. Marion is the last stop on Cruz's second weeklong bus tour before he heads to Des Moines to await the results of Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Ted Cruz has won a batch of new supporters in the Texas Legislature following U.S. Senate colleague Rand Paul's decision Wednesday to exit the presidential race.

Most prominent is state Sen. Don Huffines, the Dallas Republican who had chaired Paul's campaign in Texas. Huffines, a longtime friend of the Paul family, said he sees similarities between Cruz's campaign and the Kentucky senator's libertarian message, with both focused on "vastly limiting" the size of the federal government.

“I think Sen. Cruz will pick up a lot of the libertarian-leaning Republicans and the Republicans that have a strong philosophical belief in freedom and liberty and restrained government," Huffines said. Cruz, Huffines added, holds the "values that I believe are closest to those that Rand campaigned on.” 

Cruz also picked up the endorsement Wednesday of state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a longtime supporter of the Pauls and their political efforts. While Stickland had not formally endorsed Rand Paul, he had spoken favorably of him and made donations to his campaign. 

 

"Ted Cruz has championed liberty in the U.S. Senate and I'm proud to endorse him to be the next president of the United States," read a statement from Stickland, a Republican from Bedford. "We need a principled conservative leader to stand up against the Washington cartel and Ted Cruz is that man."

Paul announced his departure from the race two days after placing a disappointing fifth in the Iowa caucuses. Cruz won the first-in-the-nation nominating contest, beating billionaire Donald Trump 28 percent to 24 percent.

After the caucuses, Cruz has also won the backing of state Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock, who had been publicly neutral in the race. 

"I certainly think after the strong showing in Iowa, Sen. Cruz certainly has the best chance to consolidate conservatives and win the nomination," Burrows, a Republican, said Wednesday. 

Paul's campaign had put an emphasis on Texas, hoping to capitalize on his personal and political connections as the son of Ron Paul, the longtime former congressman from Lake Jackson. Rand Paul's campaign was the first in the 2016 race to open an outpost in the state, setting up shop at a startup incubator in downtown Austin. 

A number of Paul campaign officials had ties to Texas, most prominently senior adviser Steve Munisteri, the former chairman of the state GOP. On Wednesday afternoon, Munisteri said two campaigns had already reached out to him, but he has not decided yet whether to formally support another candidate and if so, who. 

Mary Jane Smith, a longtime ally of the Paul family who was Rand Paul's Texas political director, also said Wednesday afternoon she had no immediate plans to get behind another candidate. A lot of Paul supporters in Texas, she said, were also staying on the sidelines for the time being. "They're not jumping in any camp right now," she said. 

 

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