Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz shook up his Senate office Wednesday in moves that were widely viewed as aimed at positioning the Texas Republican for a future run for president.
Cruz named David Polyansky, formerly a senior adviser to Cruz's presidential campaign, as the new chief of staff in his Senate office. Sources with ties to Cruz's inner circle but not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said the move, along with the planned launching of two new nonprofits, were early steps in Cruz's plan to make another run for the presidency.
“I am excited to have David come aboard as my new chief of staff — his leadership, expertise and judgment were critical to our presidential campaign.” Cruz said in a statement. “David is a Marine, a Texan and a deeply experienced leader."
Polyansky joined Cruz's presidential campaign after previously working for a GOP presidential rival, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He's worked on an assortment of campaigns around the country. The most prominent feather in his cap in national Republican circles is his role in helping to elect U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa in 2014.
Polyanksy replaces outgoing chief of staff Paul Teller, who served in the role since 2014 and developed a combative reputation on Capitol Hill. While Teller will no longer work in Cruz's Senate office, Cruz is still retaining him as part of his larger political operation.
Teller will take on a "senior leadership role at a recently established organization that will strengthen and promote conservative principles across the country," according to a news release.
The moves were reported earlier Wednesday in The National Review.
Along with announcing an expanding and shifting political organization, Cruz's camp was combatting rumors Wednesday that Cruz is haggling with presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign over a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention later this month in Cleveland.
"We’re not in any negotiations," spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told the Tribune Wednesday. "Cruz's plans haven't changed. He looks forward to going to Cleveland to thank his supporters and we'll announce those details when they are final."
But Wednesday's announcement suggested Cruz is already thinking well beyond Cleveland and even beyond the November elections.
Traditionally, operatives on losing primary campaigns for president put away their swords and join the presumptive nominee’s organization. But since Cruz dropped out in early May, his political alumni have mostly steered clear of the Trump campaign.
As a result, Cruz has an unusually large kitchen cabinet remaining when compared to previous presidential runners-up.
Cruz's two new nonprofits give him a place to keep staffers employed, at least temporarily. Many in state politics are bracing for a consultant power struggle, possibly over Cruz’s 2018 Senate re-election race. Frazier told the Tribune that, "to talk about personnel and specific roles is premature at this time.”
Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas since 1994 and no one in Cruz's camp is worried he will end the GOP's winning streak in 2018. Yet Cruz's national profile is expected to draw a bright spotlight on the race, and some loyalists have expressed concern that a challenge by a Democrat such as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, or his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, could narrow Cruz's margin of victory.
“If they put a dent in him some way, it really could harm the future national ambitions,” said a Cruz operative.
There is only one other Republican in Congress perceived to have an organization of similar heft of what Cruz is believed to be planning: U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has built donor relationships across the country, including in Texas. Ryan's operation is geared toward raising money for efforts by House Republicans to retain control of the chamber in the fall though many in the party hope Ryan runs for the presidency in 2020 as well.
But the Cruz camp insisted Wednesday that the reorganization is simply a part of Cruz's refocusing on his current position in the Senate.
"Cruz’s full focus is on his current role in the Senate and in serving Texans' interests in the Senate," Frazier said.