Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas returns to San Diego five years after stumping for president here.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas returns to San Diego five years after stumping for president here. Image via San Diego County GOP

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, eyeing a 2024 run for president, is being advertised as the keynote speaker at the local Republican Party’s annual fundraising event.

San Diego County GOP officials didn’t respond to requests for comment. But a spokesperson for the 2016 White House wannabe said Sunday he would attend the Sept. 18 Lincoln Reagan Dinner at the downtown waterfront Marriott Marquis.

This will be the first Lincoln Reagan Dinner since 2019. In 2020, the popular event was postponed from June 13 to Sept. 3, but ultimately was canceled amid the pandemic.

This year’s dinner comes four days after California’s recall election.

Cruz visited San Diego in April 2016, and mocked candidate Donald Trump ahead of the state’s June primary.

“It’s easy to talk about making America great again,” he told more than 1,000 people at the Town & Country Hotel Resort in Mission Valley. “You can even print that on a baseball cap.”

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, whine 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.”

Three weeks after his Mission Valley visit — and getting endorsements from San Diegans and Pete Wilson, the former San Diego mayor and California governor — Cruz dropped out of the race.

(Trump won the California GOP presidential primary with nearly 75% of the vote.)

Cruz, 50, was re-elected a U.S. senator in 2018, edging Beto O’Rourke  by 2.6 percentage points.

After Trump’s move to the Oval Office, Cruz became a vocal booster of the New York businessman and reality TV star, even backing Trump’s stolen-election falsehood.

​“The Republican Party of San Diego County’s 2021 Lincoln Reagan Dinner … is one of the largest Republican Dinners in America, bringing together more than 500 business and political leaders from across California,” the party’s website says.

“It is THE do-not-miss event of the year for top elected officials, candidates, companies, business leaders and affiliated groups. Every key leader in one room — at one time.”

Individual tickets are priced at $250 a person. VIP tickets are $500, “which will include a VIP Reception, Photo Opportunity, and Gold Sponsorship Level Seating.” A table for eight goes for $2,500.

In 2019, the keynoter was ​Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky. In 2018, Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska spoke, along with Rep. Devin Nunes.

On July 1, Cruz appeared on Newsmax and told guest host Tom Basile on “The Chris Salcedo Show” that “well, sure” he’s considering another run for the White House but also would be happy seeking a third term in Congress. Born Rafael Edward Cruz in Calgary, Alberta, he was the first Latino to serve as a U.S. senator from Texas.

His race for the GOP presidential nomination was “the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” Cruz said.

“We came incredibly close,” he said. “Had an incredible grassroots army of 326,000 volunteers nationwide. And so whether it is in the Senate, or whether it is in a presidential campaign, I am committed to fighting to defend free enterprise, to defend freedom and defend the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

On Saturday, Cruz spoke in Central City, Iowa, at a rally for Rep. Ashley Hinson, who formally announced her bid for re-election.

“The road to revival comes through Iowa, and the road to bring America back to greatness comes through the great state of Iowa,” Cruz said.

Longtime San Diego political observer Carl Luna says Cruz is coming to San Diego because the Texan is running for president — and has been since he entered the Senate.

“But ‘running’ for president no longer means a candidate actually thinks they can become president,” said Luna, a San Diego Mesa College professor.

Luna said Monday that such long-odds races as Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey’s against Rep. Scott Peters in the 52nd District and John Cox and Kevin Faulconer for governor are exercises in brand-building, “establishing the candidate as a player in national (or local or state) politics.”

Running also allows candidates to create fundraising machines that give them political leverage.  

“No Republican is going to have a decent shot at the 2024 nomination as long as  Donald Trump isn’t clearly and permanently out of the race,” he says.  “Cruz is coming to San Diego to show that he is relevant to presidential politics, to use San Diego (and California) for what GOP candidates have done for decades — as a campaign fund ATM.”

It’s all to position Cruz to jump in if Trump is not a factor in 2024.

“Think of his visit like the old rock bands playing Pala and Sycuan — they’re not aiming to have a new top 40 hit but rake in the bucks on their past golden oldies,” Luna said.

Updated at 11:47 a.m. Aug. 30, 2021