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For Tea Party, Ted Cruz And His Father, Texas Couldn't Be More Red

David Martin Davies
TPR News
Reverend Rafael Cruz speaks at the Floresville Community Center on Saturday, Oct. 19..

With a reverent tone, the people at the Floresville Community Center sang the patriotic hymn "America the Beautiful." It was a Saturday afternoon of singing patriotic songs and listening to a fire and brimstone political speech from Reverend Rafael Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

"Outside of the Bible, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are the greatest documents ever written by man," Rev. Cruz said.

The estimated 250 people who attended the tea party event applauded enthusiastically and cheered the Cuban refugee, who first immigrated to Canada and later Texas.

“I told my son, 'You know Ted, when I faced oppression in Cuba I had a place to flee. But where are we going to go? There is no other place. That’s why we have to fight for America!'" Rev. Cruz said.

The heart of Rev. Cruz’s speech was about the evils of the separation of church and state, which he said was not the founder’s intent. But he also told stories of his famous son and how he would travel around Texas to rotary clubs when he was a high school student.

While the rotary members ate lunch, he would stand in front, writing out on an easel from memory the entire U.S. Constitution. And then he would give a speech about the virtues of the American free enterprise system, skills the senator would later put to use on the floor of the Senate.

"Madam President, I rise today in opposition to Obamacare," was the opening remark Sen. Cruz delivered when he delivered a 21-hour long speech. He didn’t stop the Affordable Care Act that day, but he did start a campaign to defend the federal government and toy with breaching the nation’s debt ceiling. And launch himself as one of the most controversial politicians in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Cruz’s strategy failed and has since sent his and the Tea Party’s poll numbers into a national nose dive. But he remains undeterred and pledges to continue the fight. And it’s a fight his father has joined.  

Back in Floresville, Rev. Cruz wraps up his speech by asking the audience to join hands and repeat after him, taking a public oath for the tea party cause.

"Relying on the protection of divine providence… We mutually pledge to each other… Our Lives… Our Fortunes… And our sacred honor… To restore liberty to this country."

There’s talk that Rev. Cruz is considering a run for office, challenging incumbent Republican Sen. John Cornyn in a primary. Cornyn has run afoul of tea partiers and may be vulnerable on the right.  

Rev. Cruz would be depending on the votes of tea partiers like Tom Shumaker, who said the Texas Tea Party is on the upswing.

"We’re finding that people are coming out -- as you can see here today, are coming out in greater numbers -- more recently they are starting to get more active again," Shumaker said.

This hard swing to the right is inspiring other Texas politicians as well. In the 21st Congressional District, Tea Party candidate Matt McCall is challenging conservative Republican Lamar Smith.

"I think that the winds of change they are a blowing," McCall said.

He said that Smith’s voting record looks like a true conservative’s on paper but McCall said what really counts for today’s tea party is how the nation’s debt has grown in the 27 years Smith has been in office.

"When he came into office the debt was $2.2 trillion – this year it’s now $17 trillion," McCall said.

But where does this swing leave Texas GOP moderates, who once felt they had a home in the Republican Party?

One answer could be found on the Bexar county courthouse steps in San Antonio on Monday as Judge Carlo Key announced he was quitting the GOP and joining the Democrats.

"I can not be a member of a party that is proud to destroy the financial lives of hundreds of thousands of federal employees in a vain attempt to provide health care to millions of Americans across the country," Key said.

Key’s party switch was hailed by Texas Democrats as a small step towards turning the state blue, but for Sen. and Rev. Cruz and the tea party, Texas has never been more red.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi