Politics & Government

Cruz stumps for Estes in Wichita, urging Republicans to vote

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas campaigns for Ron Estes

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz campaigned with GOP congressional candidate Ron Estes at a rally in Wichita on Monday, April 10, 2017.
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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz campaigned with GOP congressional candidate Ron Estes at a rally in Wichita on Monday, April 10, 2017.

Saying that “today the eyes of the whole country are on Kansas,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas urged voters in Kansas’ 4th District to support Ron Estes in Tuesday’s congressional special election.

Cruz, a 2016 presidential candidate, rallied Monday afternoon with about 200 Estes supporters in a hangar stop near Eisenhower National Airport, the last major campaign event leading up to Tuesday’s election.

He called on members of the crowd to vote and to take nine others with them to the polls.

“Our enemy right now is complacency,” he said.

Our enemy right now is complacency.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at a rally in support of Republican congressional candidate Ron Estes

Estes, the Republican state treasurer, is locked in a hard-fought battle with Democratic civil rights attorney James Thompson for the seat vacated by former Rep. Mike Pompeo. Libertarian Chris Rockhold, a flight instructor, is also in the race.

Cruz said Donald Trump’s victory in the November presidential election was an “overwhelming cry from the American people to change the path we’re on.”

“That’s the mandate we’ve been given with a Republican president and both houses of Congress,” Cruz said.

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He said it’s important to send Estes to Congress to work toward repealing the Affordable Care Act, reforming tax policy and cutting regulation on business.

He called Thompson “another knee-jerk vote for (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi.”

Cruz deflected a question about whether his presence indicated concern at the national Republican Party level about an Estes victory on Tuesday.

“My being here is indicative that I think this race matters,” Cruz said.

GOP boost

Cruz’s visit was part of a full-court press by the national GOP to boost Estes’ campaign in the final days. “On Tuesday, Republican Ron Estes needs your vote and needs it badly,” President Trump told voters in an automated call on Monday, calling Estes “a conservative leader who’s going to work with me to make America great again.”

Hear President Trump’s robocall urging voters to vote for GOP congressional candidate Ron Estes.

Estes also benefited from an 11th-hour, $92,000 infusion of campaign cash from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Cruz is a popular national GOP figure among Kansas Republicans, admired for his strong positions on social issues, especially his opposition to abortion.

Last year, he was an easy winner over Trump in the Kansas Republican presidential caucus.

Thompson said he’s not intimidated that Estes brought in Cruz to campaign for him.

He said he thinks it shows the weakness of the Estes campaign.

I love the fact that he can’t fight his own fights.

James Thompson, Democratic congressional candidate, on Ron Estes

“I love the fact that he can’t fight his own fights,” Thompson said. “He’s got the vice president making phone calls for him. He’s got the speaker (House Speaker Paul Ryan) who’s sent out a fundraising letter, and now he’s got Senator Cruz coming in, and I’m still here fighting the same fight I’ve been fighting all along.

“I think it’s sad he can’t do debates, he can’t do his own fundraising and he can’t fight his own fight,” Thompson added. “So if he can’t do any of those things, why is he running in the first place?”

Rally reactions

Back at the airport, tax accountant Myron Ackerman, 62, was fairly typical of the crowd. He’s been active in conservative politics and said he once served as a campaign treasurer but never will again.

“I’ve worked with Ron’s wife a lot for Americans for Prosperity,” he said. In November, Susan Estes left that organization, which was founded and funded by Koch Industries executives and advocates for low taxes and light regulation of business.

“If her husband listens to Susan, I know he’s going to hear good things,” said Ackerman, whose biggest concerns are national security and the recent missile attack by the U.S. on Syria.

“I hope it’s a good rally point for the party to get out and vote tomorrow,” added Jonathan Bender, an aircraft maintenance worker for Yingling Aviation, which hosted the event.

He liked what he heard.

“All of them (speakers at the rally) speak to my moral and ethical values. That’s why I align myself with the Republican Party,” he said. “Of course, the right to life, health care reform, gun control, those are all issues that are near and dear to me anyway.”

Cruz drew some of his biggest applause when he pressed for a flat tax and for abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.

In a statement he called “somewhat tongue-in-cheek,” he proposed padlocking the IRS building in Washington and sending its 90,000 employees to the southern border to deter illegal immigrants.

He said if you walked across the desert to the border and found 90,000 IRS agents waiting, “You’d turn around and go home, too.”

The 4th District seat has been open since late January, when Pompeo resigned from Congress to accept a position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Trump administration.

The election marks the first major electoral test since Trump won the presidential election in November and the first of four congressional elections to fill seats vacated by Trump appointees.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas, dlefler@wichitaeagle.com

Oliver Morrison: 316-268-6499, @ORMorrison, ormorrison@wichitaeagle.com

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