Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday told a Madison crowd that he is determined to make women feel included in conversations about issues in the presidential race.
Cruz held a town hall event at the Sheraton Madison Hotel with his mother, Eleanor Cruz; his wife, Heidi Cruz; and former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.
The Republican’s visit to Wisconsin’s most liberal city comes at a dramatic moment in the presidential campaign in which Cruz is making a strong bid to win the nomination and block front-runner Donald Trump. A new Marquette Law School Poll released Wednesday shows Cruz surging to a 10-point lead over the real-estate mogul in the state. The Wisconsin primary is Tuesday.
The “Women for Cruz” event also comes on the heels of a spat between Cruz and Trump over a photo Trump retweeted last week comparing Cruz’s wife to Trump’s wife. Trump has also faced repeated questions about his comments about women, including some Wednesday in which he suggested that women who have abortions should be punished, comments he later softened.
At the Madison event, Cruz, his mother and his wife spoke about their relationships, while Fiorina talked about how her upbringing affected her approach to parenthood.
“One of the most frustrating things about the Democratic party is that the Democrats love to pigeonhole women,” said Cruz. “Women are not a special interest. Women are a majority of the United States of America, and every issue is a women’s issue.”
Eleanor Cruz, who said she had “never been on a stage like this,” said her son as a child would memorize the Constitution for fun — providing a preview to his political career.
“He would spend hours in front of myself and his father reciting (the Constitution) and learning the gestures that went with it,” she said. She said her approach to raising children was to “follow the lead of the child.”
“That’s what I’ve tried to do — let him lead,” she said.
In a conversation about raising children, Fiorina spoke candidly about losing one — her step-daughter Lori — to drug addiction.
“Perhaps like many parents, we — I think — were in denial for a while because she was so normal in other respects,” Fiorina said. “So high-functioning, so talented, so smart, so beautiful. I think, honestly, we tried to put it away for too long probably.”
Fiorina said her faith and family got her through Lori’s death in 2009.
“There is nothing more difficult, I think, than to lose a child,” she said. “But there’s also something so tragic about watching someone with so many gifts and so much potential to literally disappear in front of your eyes.”
When asked how living in Africa as Christian missionaries affected her approach to raising daughters Catherine and Caroline, Heidi Cruz said she hopes the two girls are able to learn lessons from the campaign trail.
“It reminds me of how our kids are so impressionable and the experiences they have will impact them for the rest of their life,” she said.
At the close of the event, Cruz said he was “inspired.”
“I hope the little girls all across Wisconsin and all across the country were listening to this program today because I think what we saw for just a brief glimpse, for a brief moment, is the incredible potential that every little girl and every little boy has,” he said.
In the audience Wednesday was Robin Stroebel of Oregon, sister of Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, co-chairman of Cruz’s state campaign.
She said she recently decided to support Cruz because he is “based in the rule of law and the Constitution.”
Stroebel said in Cruz she sees someone who is down to earth, has a “logical progression of thought,” and is calm and thoughtful.
“I guess I’m kind of a rules person,” she said. “I want to know what I can expect (from a candidate).”
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