THE TED CRUZ EFFECT
By: Betsy Woodruff
One doesn’t visit Hemphill, Texas (pop. 1,188), expecting a huge crowd. But when Ted Cruz arrived in the tiny city in Deep East Texas for an early-morning campaign stop during his 2012 bid for the Republican nomination for Senate, some 30 community leaders had assembled in the front yard of the courthouse. According to Tyler Norris, who was Cruz’s driver at the time, they were sitting in lawn chairs, eagerly waiting to hear the would-be senator’s plans for fixing Washington.
Responsible for the (comparatively) robust turnout was Wayne Christian, the district’s state representative at the time. Christian was one of the few Texas Republican elected officials to endorse Cruz in his Senate bid, and he gave him a rousing introduction. Cruz proceeded to deliver a stirring speech, and some of the attendees immediately made campaign contributions. Cruz’s people handed out bumper stickers, which many of the Hemphillians promptly affixed to their cars.
Christian proceeded to take Cruz to the Suzi Q Cattle Company, where he introduced the candidate to cattle raisers and others involved in the agriculture industry. It was in the early days of the campaign, and that level of help — in fact, any amount of help — from an elected Republican was far from the norm. Christian went out on a limb for Cruz, and people noticed. But Cruz wasn’t the only beneficiary.
When Christian showed Cruz around the Suzi Q Company and the Hemphill courthouse grounds, he wasn’t planning to run for statewide office. But today he’s running for the Republican nomination for railroad commissioner, and his status as a Ted Cruz early adopter hasn’t hurt a bit.
“It worked well,” he tells me. “You’re always in a lot better shape when you’re with the winner.” He adds that now moderate candidates court his endorsement, and that there’s a new litmus test for Republican candidates: “Well, how much like Ted Cruz are you?”