North Carolina Republican lawmakers Thursday expressed frustration with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, after he didn’t endorse presidential nominee Donald Trump during his speech Wednesday at the Republican National Convention.
Cruz pledged to support the party’s nominee earlier this year when he was still a contender in the 2016 presidential election. On Wednesday, he withheld his support from Trump during a passionate late-night speech. The lack of an endorsement drew resounding boos from various state delegates.
“To those listening, please, don’t stay home in November,” Cruz said. “If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
The following morning, Cruz met with Texas delegates and explained that he could not bring himself to back someone who had verbally attacked his wife and father.
North Carolina elected leaders criticized Cruz on Thursday.
“While I will always respect the freedom to vote one’s conscience, it’s time for party unity,” Republican Sen. Richard Burr said.
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said in an email response to questions about Cruz: “The Republican convention should not be used as a platform for any Republican leader to put their personal political ambitions ahead of our shared goal of uniting our party to defeat Hillary Clinton and move America in new, more prosperous direction.”
Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-Charlotte, said Cruz needs to be a team player.
“The issues and election outcome are more important than him,” he said.
Pittenger was not at the convention during Cruz’s speech and watched the speech on TV. He spent a few days in Cleveland to show his support and then returned to Charlotte.
By Thursday afternoon, he had heard about how Cruz had tried to pacify a room full of confused Texas delegates by explaining that he couldn’t support the billionaire candidate because he wasn’t a “servile puppy dog” willing to betray his family for the politician who had publicly bashed them.
Regardless of the explanation, Pittenger sees Cruz as having two options: get behind Trump or go support Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.
Rep. Walter Jones, R-Farmville, said he had a chance to talk to Cruz about the presidential election when he ran into him at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington a few weeks ago. So the Texas senator’s decision not to endorse Trump Wednesday night did not come as much of a surprise.
“Senator Cruz being upset with the fact that Mr. Trump attacked his wife by saying that she was unattractive and then attacking his father by accusing him to be part of the Kennedy assassination – with no apology – that to me says a lot about a man,” he said.
Jones said he would support Trump, but that the presidential candidate would take “take a giant step forward in bringing the party back together” if he would just apologize to Cruz.
The political turmoil surrounding Cruz’s actions has irked Rep. George Holding, R-Raleigh, who says he just wants the Republican Party to move toward a better future.
“I have no interest in helping continue this controversy,” he said. “Last night at the Republican convention Mike Pence looked at the mess of American politics and said, ‘I have faith that God can still heal our country.’ That’s true hope. And that’s what’s important.”
Maggie Ybarra, 202-383-6048 @MolotovFlicker