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Ted Cruz ‘celebrated’ Trump’s Mexico comments, dad says

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Holland — The father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday his son “celebrated” fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s controversial statements about security along the United States-Mexico border.

Pastor Rafael Cruz recounted a recent conversation with his son while speaking Friday morning to a handful of supporters of Ted Cruz’s White House campaign at the SouthSide Inn diner in Holland.

“He said ‘I am really glad that Trump spoke out on amnesty and illegal immigration,’ ” Rafael Cruz said, quoting his son. “Ted celebrated the fact that Trump brought that to the forefront because nobody wants to talk about it.”

On the campaign trail, Ted Cruz has declined to join fellow Republican presidential hopefuls in criticizing Trump for claiming Mexico is sending murderers and rapists to illegally enter the U.S.

Cruz has advocated for beefing up border security and has opposed granting citizenship to individuals who entered the country illegally.

Rafael Cruz, a pastor from northern Texas who immigrated legally from Cuba on a student visa in 1957, was in heavily Republican west Michigan on Friday seeking support to create a “grassroots army” of supporters for his son in Michigan’s presidential primary next March. Ted Cruz was last in Michigan in early June for a speech to Livingston County Republicans in Howell.

In the crowded 17-candidate Republican presidential field, Ted Cruz is competing with fellow Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, famed neurosurgeon and Detroit native Ben Carson, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Trump and others for the influential evangelical Christian and social conservative blocs of GOP voters.

In two campaign stops Friday, Rafael Cruz warned against what will happen if conservative voters split in next year’s primaries and side with multiple candidates.

“If we have a mushy moderate like Jeb Bush, we will lose in 2016 and Hillary Clinton will destroy this country,” Rafael Cruz said. “So we need to unify. We need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder together.”

Rafael Cruz also argued his son is more electable than other candidates vying for the GOP’s most conservative primary voters, noting the $52 million Ted Cruz has raised since launching his White House bid in March.

Cruz rattled off mid-year fund raising totals for other candidates that were far less than his son’s initial haul, including Santorum’s $600,000 in donations.

“You can’t even compete in one state with that,” Cruz said at a breakfast event at the Trestle Stop restaurant in rural Hamilton in Allegan County.

Rafael Cruz, who has become an outspoken surrogate for his son on the campaign trail, made his final appearance of the three-day trip to Michigan by stopping at the Kent County Republican Party headquarters in Grand Rapids.

He used some of the same rhetoric his son uses on the stump, such as referring to the Washington, D.C., power structure of established Republican and Democratic politicians as a “cartel.”

“We need to send a clear message to the Washington cartel that we don’t work for them, they work for us,” Cruz said in Hamilton.

Speaking to constitutionally-minded GOP voters, the father recounted stories about Ted Cruz’s passion for the nation’s founding principles, saying his son memorized the U.S. Constitution at age 13.

Wendy Day, a Howell Republican and state coordinator for the Cruz campaign, accompanied Rafael Cruz at the two campaign stops along with Sen. Patrick Colbeck — a co-chair of Cruz’s Michigan campaign — and state Rep. Cindy Gamrat.

Colbeck, R-Canton, said he finds parallels between Cruz’s fight with Senate Republican leaders and his own internal battles with GOP leadership in Lansing since being elected to represent western Wayne County in 2010.

Cruz is the only “great candidate” on the deep bench of conservative presidential candidates, Colbeck said.

“Ted Cruz is the real deal and I want to get behind somebody that I can trust,” Colbeck said. “ ... The reason I’m getting engaged so early and so quickly is because I do not want another case where we have a moderate slipping up the middle here and splitting our conservatives.”

Harold Jordan of Hamilton said he’s siding with Ted Cruz over Rand Paul, who was in Holland on July 11 as part of a two-day campaign swing through Michigan.

“He’s not conservative enough for me,” Jordan said of Paul. “There’s no hole in (Cruz’s) message.”

Gamrat, a Plainwell Republican whose district encompasses Allegan County, helped organize the Hamilton event and asked the 45 people who attended for financial support of her re-election campaign committee.

“There is also a Lansing cartel,” Gamrat said in her fund-raising pitch. “It takes a certain amount of money ... to get your message out. It’s just a reality.”

Gamrat has not publicly endorsed a GOP presidential candidate, but said she is “leaning” toward Cruz.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

Twitter.com/ChadLivengood