By Ken StoneWith City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and KFMB radio host Mike Slater helping warm up a patient crowd, Ted Cruz brought his GOP presidential campaign Monday night to San Diego.
Cruz, wearing cowboy boots at a rally with light security, left a Town & Country Hotel crowd of more than 1,000 laughing as he began seeking his share of 172 delegates in the state’s June 7 primary.
His stump speech, starting 50 minutes into the scheduled 6 p.m. event, was peppered with jokes.
Like: “The Democratic field consists of a wild-eyed Socialist — whose ideas are dangerous for America and the world — and Bernie Sanders.”
And: “Going forward, Hillary [Clinton] is going to be able to use any email server she likes — because she’ll never again be an employee of the United States government.”
A brief protest, out of sight in an adjoining foyer, didn’t faze Cruz.
He didn’t hear what was shouted, but the 45-year-old Tea Party favorite responded to the crowd’s drown-out chants of “Ted Cruz, Ted Cruz” by saying: “Apparently there’s a Bernie Sanders rally outside. By the way, you know the easiest way to clear out a Bernie Sanders rally? Just tell them they’ve gotta get a job.”
Vanessa Murguiax, working for I Heart Radio and a Carl DeMaio KOGO show, said she and a colleague saw a group of one man and four women yelling “Undocumented, undocumented” before leaving of their own accord.
“There was a man saying: Keep a going” to the small protest group, she said.Emceed by former state GOP chairman Ron Nehring of San Diego (now Cruz’s national spokesman), the rally took the place of the San Diego Republican Party’s monthly meeting. Local GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric was present, but didn’t speak.
Instead, the crowd heard from Slater and Goldsmith, the only person to make reference to the April 19 New York primary. The city attorney said he once drove a taxi in the Big Apple and implored: “New York, do the right thing.”
Skyline Church pastor Jim Garlow, a leader of the 2008 Proposition 8 drive against same-sex marriage, gave the invocation. He called for “the rise of godly leadership.”
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, whose name was read by Nehring among three dozen San Diego officials endorsing Cruz, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Diane Harkey, who represents San Diego and nearby counties on the tax-oveseeing state Board of Equalization, was the only woman to help introduce Cruz (although San Diego’s Sacha Boutros sang the national anthem).
“Are you ready to Cruz to victory?” said Harkey, who endorsed the Texan just this week. “California matters. We matter big time this year. … We don’t need whiners running for election. We need winners.”
Said Nehring: “Is there energy in this room or what?”After a 3 1/2-minute video (shown for only the second time in the campaign, Nehring said), Cruz emerged from behind a black curtain and shook hands amid chants of “Ted, Ted.”
Standing in front of a backdrop of 30 sign-carrying people, mostly young, he drummed his fingers on a microphone and joked: “The black helicopters are coming.”
Cruz took on rival Donald Trump almost immediately, saying: “It’s easy to talk about making America great again. You can even print that on a baseball cap.” Instead, he said he would take the “boot of the federal government off the backs” of small business.
He called for a simple flat tax that could be filled out on a single postcard, “and when we do that, we’ll abolish the IRS.”
Late in his 28 1/2-minute remarks, Cruz said: “The third critical issue in this election (after jobs and freedom) is security.”
A man yelled: “What about the fence?”
Not missing a beat, Cruz responded: “We’re going to build it. We’re going to triple the Border Patrol. We’re going to get it done, and I give you my word we will end illegal immigration.” Big cheers followed.
He spent a portion “talking politics” and his path to the GOP nomination, claiming 11 election victories in the past three weeks, including Utah, North Dakota and Wisconsin.Regarding Trump’s accusations about a “rigged” Colorado delegate battle, Cruz said: “He yells and scream and stamps his foot. He curses and yells, and insults anyone nearby. As we know in the state of California, wine is what’s served with cheese.
“To put it simply: Donald, it isn’t stealing when the voters vote against you. It is the voters reclaiming this country.”
He argued that polls show him beating Hillary Clinton among young people by 14 percentage points. He cited an old Fox News poll saying he’d beat Clinton in a general election by 3 points.
Goldsmith hailed Cruz for having argued nine times before the U.S. Supreme Court, saying: “That’s [a lawyer’s] version of a billionaire. … He took on the establishment in the United States Senate. Ted Cruz was the last man standing.”
Slater started a chant: “When I say Ted, you say Cruz” and asked the crowd who was part of the beginnings of the Tea Party movement. (About half raised their hands.)
The talk-show host said he wanted an extremist for president — but a “reluctant leader” and one who’s humble, like George Washington or Maximus (played by Russell Crowe in the 2000 film “Gladiator.”)
“We want an extremist for love, justice and integrity,” Slater said.Cruz concluded his speech to cheers: “I am convinced that the longest-lasting legacy of Barack Obama is a new generation of leaders in the Republican Party, who stand and fight for liberty, who stand and fight for the Constitution and who stand and fight for the Judeo-Christian values that built this great nation.”
Before the rally, a couple dozen people with handmade signs stood on Fashion Valley Road, triggering honks of approval as a light sprinkle began. (San Diego police said no arrests were made.)
Protesters ran the gamut from left to right — from San Diego Democratic Party Chairwomen Francine Busby (“There’s a million issues we can bring up with Ted Cruise”) joining a veterans group to at least one Trump backer raising his voice.
He yelled “RINOS, respect the Constitution” while holding up a “Not Eligible” sign referring to Cruz’s Canadian birth.
Standing in the same line, Gary Whaley of San Diego took Trump’s side on the Colorado fight, saying: “The delegates were engineered, manipulated, stolen.” A 53-year-old commercial real estate appraiser, he said: “Trump understands business. I don’t think Ted does.”
But he granted that Cruz is “very clever” and would make a great U.S. attorney general.
George Wedemeyer of Hillcrest held a sign saying: “Cruise is Canadian.” He said he’d been told by Canadian friends that Cruise’s mother voted in Canadian elections. But that wasn’t his major complaint.
“I’m gay,” said Wedemeyer, 74. “I don’t want [Cruz] putting us back in concentration camps.”
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: