At a True Texas Project (TTP) townhall in Grapevine, Cruz, who got a standing ovation from the crowd upon introduction, was asked if he’d commit to “endorsing an Abbott primary challenger or not endorsing in this race.”
Most notably, Abbott faces in the upcoming GOP gubernatorial primary former Republican Party of Texas Chair Allen West, former state Sen. Don Huffines, and BlazeTV host Chad Prather.
“As you can see from this event tonight,” moderator Fran Rhodes stated to cheers from the crowd, “we favor anyone but Abbott.”
Cruz’s answer was not what much of the crowd hoped to hear.
Prefacing the answer by saying he likes and respects “a lot of the people” running for governor, Cruz then ran through his personal history with Abbott which includes being the former attorney general’s solicitor general from 2003 to 2008.
“I can tell you very, very simply — if it were not for Greg Abbott, I would not be in the U.S. Senate,” he stated.
Cruz added, “I understand [that] there are a lot of folks here who have concerns with some of the things Greg Abbott has done. I understand that, and I think primaries are healthy things in politics.”
“But [I’ve got to] say, as for me, I’m going to vote for Greg Abbott. And to be honest, I think I’d be a disloyal jackass if I didn’t vote for him,” he emphasized, as boos came from the crowd.
“The political process can play out, but I want you to understand where I’m coming from with 20 years of history behind our friendship.”
The crowd then responded to Cruz’s answer with a mix of applause and jeers.
The True Texas Project (TTP) is the organization that assumed the Tea Party’s mantle in Northeast Texas. With over a dozen satellite organizations, the group holds townhalls and rallies throughout the state. TTP’s founder and CEO, Julie McCarty, has endorsed Huffines in the governor’s race — but its members vary in support of the Abbott challengers.
In closing the event, McCarty addressed Cruz’s comments, warning, “I would encourage Sen. Cruz to hold Governor Abbott accountable, and then do whatever stuff comes next.”
Abbott responded to Cruz’s statement Thursday morning, saying, “Proud to have my friend [Ted Cruz] behind me.”
“We’ve fought for conservative principles for two decades, and we’ll continue working side by side to keep Texas the BEST state in the country.”
The Northeast Tarrant Tea Party was one of Cruz’s biggest bases of support in his insurgent bid turned upset of then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the 2012 senate race.
Abbott, meanwhile, has seen himself move from a ready ally of this wing of his party to its bogeyman. That transition jumped into hyperdrive during the coronavirus pandemic, during which he instituted business shutdowns and lockdowns, a mask mandate, and toyed with contact tracing.
Due in large part to his handling of the pandemic, multiple challengers seized the chance to challenge him. In 2018, Abbott won re-election by over 1 million votes against Democrat Lupe Valdez and did not face a serious primary challenger.
This is the first time in his political career that Abbott faces such a primary challenge, and the group hopes that the incumbent can be forced into a runoff. But with a historic $55 million war chest, Abbott’s campaign will be one tough obstacle to overcome.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.