Ted Cruz playing GOP kingmaker in Utah special election

Republicans in Utah overwhelmingly selected Ted Cruz of their presidential caucus 17 months in the past. This week, the Texas senator will learn how a lot political affect he nonetheless has amongst them.

Cruz endorsed and campaigned on behalf of Republican Chris Herrod, his presidential marketing campaign coordinator who’s on the poll for a particular Home election. Herrod is competing in a 3-means main for the race to exchange former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

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Republican candidate Chris Herrod speaks throughout a debate, in Provo, Utah. A main contest between three Republicans operating for a Utah congressional seat held by Jason Chaffetz has tightened forward of Tuesday’s election, the winner of which is predicted to cruise to victory in November’s particular election.

Rick Bowmer AP

Herrod started the race as an underdog, however within the last weeks — with the assistance of serious outdoors promoting — he has closed in on the frontrunner, Provo Mayor John Curtis. That main, a better-profile contest than the overall election in shiny purple Utah, takes place Tuesday night time (though the winner will not be decided till later within the week.)

“Senator Cruz did very properly in Utah and stays highly regarded there,” stated one Cruz ally who has been monitoring the particular election. “Herrod had no identify ID in any respect, Curtis began with an unlimited lead… so the truth that he’s even within the recreation is fairly exceptional.”

Except for Cruz, Herrod has additionally gotten assist from the conservative Membership for Progress, which spent lots of of hundreds of dollars attacking Curtis on his behalf. He additionally acquired an endorsement from one other 2016 presidential hopeful, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

But when Herrod succeeds, the Cruz ally stated, “It sends a robust message that in case you’re wanting an endorsement in a Republican main, that the individual you need to get it from is Ted Cruz.”

The Membership for Progress backed Herrod after Cruz’s endorsement, and spokeswoman Rachael Slobodien, who previously labored for Cruz, stated that whereas the 2 endorsements have been made independently, the senator is “really the chief of the conservative motion.”

The Utah race comes as different GOP leaders’ political may can also be being put to the check this week, in a particular election in Alabama.

President Trump made a final-minute endorsement in that race for Sen. Luther Unusual, who faces a surprisingly shut main to maintain the seat he was appointed to final February. Unusual has additionally benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in promoting by an excellent PAC aligned with Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell. Whereas Unusual is predicted to win the race in a September main runoff, he presently polls behind one GOP opponent and narrowly forward of one other — troubling indicators for each McConnell’s and Trump’s political camps.

Herrod’s race has hints of Trump affect too. Whereas Herrod led Cruz’s marketing campaign within the caucus, he and one other GOP hopeful, Tanner Ainge, say they finally voted for Trump in November. Curtis, who is taken into account probably the most average of the group, says he didn’t vote for anybody within the presidential contest — one thing his opponents have attacked him for.

Again in Texas, Cruz’s engagement in political king-making hasn’t gone unnoticed by opponents. Although Cruz met with constituents on a tour via east Texas earlier this month, and has extra occasions deliberate earlier than the top of August recess, his Democratic opponent was fast use the marketing campaign occasion in Utah as proof the senator has put his political ambitions over his present job.

“Whereas I’m touring Texas all this week spending time with Texans, he’s in Utah supporting some candidate operating for workplace there,” Rep. Beto O’Rourke stated in an interview final week. “He’s constructing a nationwide base; I’m working with Texans.”

O’Rourke, who represents El Paso, has additionally been venturing out of his territory over Congress’s August break. The Home left Washington sooner than the Senate, and O’Rourke has used the time to host marketing campaign-type “city halls” throughout the state, together with a swing via Fort Value final Friday night time.

And whereas Cruz has helped Herrod with emails to his nationwide fundraising listing, the senator’s personal fundraising has been lower than stellar. Regardless of sitting on a formidable $5 million for his reelection, he raised simply $1.1 million within the second quarter of 2017 — about $500,000 lower than O’Rourke.

Andrea Drusch: 202-383-6056, @AndreaDrusch

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