Sen. Ted Cruz finally made an appearance in Nevada to speak to the voters in Clark County. Hosted by AFP Nevada at Red Rock Resort, Cruz expounded on his campaign message of repealing Obamacare, abolishing the IRS and instituting a flat tax, and breaking up the #WashingtonCartel. The photo above is courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun, photographer LE Baskow.
The event was full, but not to capacity. AFP NV had sent an email two days prior to ticket holders that it was sold out, and even tickets may not guarantee entry, so I believe that, in itself, depressed attendance somewhat, even among those who already had tickets.
While the main session was enjoyable, the real highlight of the evening was the informal meeting with Sen. Cruz in a private room outside the ballroom, which we were privileged to attend:
In attendance were Assembly Speaker John Hambrick, Assembly Members Victoria Seaman, John Moore, Brent Jones, and my assemblyman, David Gardner. Also in attendance were NV GOP Chairman Michael McDonald, Heidi Harris of AM 790 KBET, Richard Ziser from Nevada Concerned Citizens, and a handful of other activists and officials from Clark County.
The Mayor of Boulder City, Rod Woodbury, sent his son as proxy to meet the Senator and get a feel for his message. Assemblyman Chris Edwards came to the meeting later, after the main event in the ballroom. My apologies to anyone that I missed or didn't recognize.
As we waited in the private room for the Senator to arrive, we found out that he had an unscheduled meeting with a large Nevada donor that he did not want to skip. I'm sure you can figure out who the largest GOP donor in Las Vegas is and put two and two together. ;) (He works on the LV Strip). That's a good sign for the Cruz campaign that big donors want a meeting with him.
Cruz finally arrived 5 minutes before he had to be on stage and apologized to the room. He said that the campaign canceled his flight out and booked a later flight, and if it were alright with us, he would come in and meet with us after the event for an hour or so. No one in the room declined his offer.
After the main session, we returned to the room and found that all the elected officials except for Victoria Seaman had left for other events. She asked Sen. Cruz about his stance on federal ownership of lands and if he supported the return of federal lands to the states. His response was emphatic and encouraging. He said, "Let me answer that question in three ways," as he ticked them off on his fingers. "Yes, yes, and hell, yes!" He went on to express that he favors private ownership of lands over federal or state ownership. Texas, he noted has 2% federal land ownership, while Nevada has over 81%. (Some estimates put it over 84%)
He stated that private ownership and development of land provides three times the boost to a state's economy that public ownership does. When asked about hunting, he pointed out that in states like Texas, landholders actually issued leases to hunters to use their land and any game on it. Some even bred and stocked exotic game for sportsmen to hunt.
Richard Ziser (pictured left) from NV Concerned Citizens then asked about the importance of social issues on the ballot or in a campaign and his views on their place in Sen. Cruz's presidential campaign.
Cruz responded that there are approximately 90 million Evangelicals who are registered to vote in the US. 80% he claimed, vote consistently Republican when they do vote. In 2012, more than 54 million Evangelicals didn't even come out to vote. That's an enormous voice in American politics that has fallen largely silent.
He then made the point that a candidate who is willing to fight for social issues, such as religious liberty, can motivate millions of these predominantly conservative Evangelicals to show up in November 2016 to vote. He highlighted this by pointing to his Rally for Religious Liberty in Iowa next week, featuring a performance by the Newsboys, a popular Christian band. Cruz has been consistent in his defense of traditional, conservative social issues.
The most curious aspect of the evening for me was the fact that NV legislators, who had sided with Gov. Brian Sandoval against Nevada taxpayers to pass a $1 BILLION tax-hike were interested in meeting with a leader like Ted Cruz. During his speech, Cruz referred to Sandoval as a "supposed" conservative who raises taxes. John Hambrick signed the taxpayer protection pledge to not raise taxes and then as Speaker last session, voted for every tax increase proposed. He didn't come back to the room after Cruz's speech. Neither did David Gardner from he 9th Assembly District, who refused to sign the pledge, but campaigned as a conservative Republican. He voted for tax increases 22 times last session.
Chris Edwards, who arrived later, is an odd case in Nevada politics. While he ultimately voted against the final tax bill, he voted for various increases included in the bill a total of 26 times, so his hands aren't completely clean. Edwards was also embroiled in a vote-bribing scandal that led to a Las Vegas Metro PD investigation, sealed warrants, and the seizure of a political activists autodialers for the duration of the legislative session. We are pretty sure he wasn't wearing a wire, but he DID come in late and sit right next to Sen. Cruz:
All of these candidates signed an affidavit when they filed as Republican candidates on their Declaration of Candidacy that contains the following phrase:
"I generally believe in and intend to support the concepts found in the principles and policies of that political party (Republican) in the coming election."
As the Nevada GOP has a platform of NOT raising taxes and cutting back the influence and power of government, the Governor and more than half the Republicans in the legislature turned their backs on the party platform this session. Their actions prompted the state party to issue a statement decrying the votes of Republican candidates that raised taxes on Nevada citizens.
When Ted Cruz says that Americans are tired of sending overwhelming majorities of Republican members to Congress but seeing nothing changes, the applause is raucous. The same thing has occurred here in Nevada, where voters sent a majority of Republicans to serve in the legislature based on the party platform that advocates for lower taxes, not higher taxes, and watched as their votes were betrayed. I found it strange that some of these candidates who voted against the party platform would want to be around a leader that raises money condemning those same actions of politicians in DC. =/
Overall, it was a great event. My hope is that next time Sen. Cruz visits Nevada that it will be a larger venue with more advance notice so that more Nevada voters have the opportunity to see and hear him in person.