Cruz in RGV after campaign launch

EDINBURG — A day after launching his “Tough as Texas” re-election campaign slogan, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz praised law enforcement personnel seated nearby, many of whom made up the organization that issued Cruz an endorsement on Tuesday.

The National Border Patrol Council, an 18,000-member labor union, hosted Cruz Tuesday at its offices here, across the street from the district office of U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, who’s an ally of Cruz’s Democratic opponent from El Paso, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

Despite Cruz’s delight in engaging protesters, and their frequency at Cruz events in the Rio Grande Valley, there were none at or outside the rally.

This was the council’s second-ever endorsement, following the group’s backing of then-candidate Donald Trump in his bid for president in 2016. NBPC President Brandon Judd, a 20-year Border Patrol veteran and frequent Fox News contributor introduced Cruz.

“And I’m not shy to say this,” Judd said. “I personally hope President Ted Cruz.”

Cruz started off his speech about his father reading him bedtime stories growing up, then transitioned to the everyday “Texan heroes” who “are every bit as glorious as those heroes we dreamed of as little kids, heroes amongst us, Texans living amongst us.”

He lauded Border Patrol agents in the room before telling specific anecdotes from Hurricane Harvey and the church shooting near San Antonio in Sutherland Springs. Cruz praised Paul Perez, president of the NBPC’s RGV chapter, for acting when the hurricane hit.

“Thankfully, Harvey didn’t hit the Valley,” Cruz said. “But like any Texan, Paul doesn’t view his sphere of responsibility as limited to the immediate community in which he lives in. And he stepped forward and helped lead relief efforts — to bring CBP agents to help those in Hurricane Harvey. Boats and jet skis and agents went up to Houston to help rescue people in high-water rescue situations because suddenly we had the Rio Grande in downtown Houston.”

Cruz continued commending law enforcement and calling them heroes. He honored the family of former Border Patrol agent Javier Vega Jr., who was killed in 2014 while protecting his family when they were fishing in Raymondville.

Cruz and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, co-authored a bill to rename the Border Patrol checkpoint along U.S. Highway 77 near Sarita after Vega.

Cruz preceded this by proclaiming the strong need to enforce immigration law.

“There’s some in Washington who believe that our immigration laws shouldn’t be enforced and our borders should be open,” Cruz said, “that our cities should be sanctuaries for those that come to break the law.”

But, he said, “that’s not who we are. In Texas, what brings us together is the shared values,” before listing what he believes interests the 28 million people here. Cruz told the story of Jeff Branick, the Jefferson County judge who switched parties last year and joined the junior senator for an event in Beaumont. He linked Branick to the Rio Grande Valley.

“The Hispanic community in South Texas have been conservative Democrats for a long, long time,” Cruz said.

While Cruz harped on the “shared values of Texans” during his roughly 30-minute speech, he did not mention his well-funded opponent. Cruz did not acknowledge O’Rourke until after the March 6 primary, and has tore into O’Rourke over the past month for being a “left-wing Democrat.”

The O’Rourke campaign tried to insert its presence at Cruz events, including the one in Beaumont on Monday, as well as the Edinburg rally. O’Rourke posted a Snapchat filter in the McAllen-Edinburg area that allowed users of the app in that locale to layer a cartoon of a frowning Cruz on their posts. The filter included a knock at Cruz’s presidential bid, which O’Rourke said diverted Cruz’s focus away from representing Texas in Washington.

“Ted Cruz visited 99 of Iowa’s 99 counties,” the filter read. “When’s the last time he listened to Texans in McAllen?”

On Tuesday morning, two hours before Cruz’s rally kicked off, O’Rourke announced that he raised more than $6.7 million in the first quarter of 2018. This was by far O’Rourke’s largest fundraising quarter of his campaign, doubling any other three-month stretch yet. His previous quarters ranged from $1.7 million to $2.4 million.

The fundraising, which his campaign said is more than any Democratic candidate nationwide, comes from 141,000 contributions. O’Rourke told the Texas Tribune later on Wednesday that about 70 percent of that money was raised within the state.

Cruz’s campaign hasn’t yet “completed the tally but I will say Congressman O’Rourke outraised us last quarter and I fully expect he will have outraised us this quarter.”

As for O’Rourke’s haul?

“It’s a lot of money,” Cruz said after the Edinburg rally. “There’s no doubt that the far left is energized, and they’re angry — they hate the president and you are seeing Bernie Sanders liberals giving millions of dollars to Democratic candidates all over the country.

“Congressman Beto O’Rourke is supported by Hollywood liberals, including Rose O’Donnell, including Al Franken, including Chelsea Handler. Congressman O’Rourke is campaigning with East Coast liberals like Chuck Schumer, like Joe Kennedy.”

On whether he will fundraise outside the state, Cruz said, “Sure.”