Fresh off a defiant appearance at the Republican National Convention where he refused to endorse GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz waded into a firestorm again Friday night in Georgia.
Cruz campaigned in Newnan with state Sen. Mike Crane, who has drawn the ire of law enforcement for comments suggesting he would shoot police who entered his home with a no-knock warrant. Crane is running for a congressional seat in West Georgia. He faces former West Point mayor Drew Ferguson in Tuesday’s GOP runoff.
Cruz appeared unfazed by the recent controversy telling a crowd of supporters that Georgia needs someone with a backbone in Washington.
“If you want to see a federal government that finally does its job, secures the borders, stops illegal immigration, elect Mike Crane to Congress,” Cruz said.
Crane, who choked up when he introduced Cruz, is viewed by some as the Georgia Senate’s version of the Texas senator: Independent and unafraid to ruffle feathers, even if it means alienating his own Republican colleagues. Ferguson has been endorsed by the state Chamber of Commerce and retiring 3rd District Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. He’s widely viewed as the establishment Republican candidate in the race.
Cruz never mentioned Trump by name Friday night, but received a standing ovation when he alluded to the “little-noticed talk” he gave in Cleveland. Cruz was booed after his prime-time speech Thursday night after he refused to endorse Trump.
Trump and Cruz had been bitter adversaries during the GOP presidential primary. Trump repeatedly mocked Cruz as “lyin’ Ted.” But Cruz said the New York billionaire crossed a line when he criticized his wife, Heidi as well as his father.
At a news conference on Friday at the close of the Republican National Convention., Trump dismissed Cruz’s failure to back him.
“If he gives it, I will not accept it,” Trump said.
“I don’t want his endorsement,” he added. “Just, Ted, stay home, relax, enjoy yourself.”
On Friday night, Crane implored everyone in attendance to vote for him on Tuesday.
“We won the first round by 93 votes,” Crane said. “There are five times as many that votes in this room right now. Do you understand how close that can be?”
The “Rally for Freedom” was held at Newnan Centre, in a packed room that was standing room only. Newnan councilman Dustin Koritko led with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer before state Sen. Josh McKoon introduced Crane.
“You have to send someone to Washington D.C. who is going to have a spine of steel,” McKoon said.
Outside, 18 members of the Georgia Fraternal Order of the Police were on hand to protest Crane’s comments on no-knock warrants.
“You come to my house, kick down my door—if I have an opportunity, I will shoot you dead. And every one of you should do the same,” Crane was recorded saying earlier this year.
Crane has said the remarks were taken out of context.
Cruz argued Crane is going to stand with the men and women of law enforcement.
Randy Robertson, president of the Georgia Fraternal Order of the Police, was among those waving at cars and holding signs that read “We Support Law Enforcement Officers.”
“What these public officials, these elected officials, don’t think about is when they get out there and start blasting their hyperbole into the crowds and everything, hoping to lather them up and get votes, some of the words carry a very negative and dangerous impact throughout our country,” Robertson said.
Lindsey Powell, 19, a political science major at the University of Pennsylvania, said she was frustrated by the protest.
“I feel like Mr. Crane’s words were very much twisted against him and completely taken out of context and used in a very unethical way,” she said.