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Ted Cruz holds town hall meeting at UB

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz held a town hall meeting in Amherst Thursday. He immediately took on a question about his comment about "New York values" and then drew cheers from the audience of about 300 invited guests when he declared, "we will beat Donald Trump in Cleveland."

The Texas senator appeared at the Katherine Cornell Theater on the University at Buffalo north campus, taking part in a town hall meeting hosted by Chuck Todd of NBC News. It was recorded for broadcast later in the evening. Because MSNBC owned exclusive rights to the town hall meeting, local media including WBFO, were unable to broadcast the session nor record it.

The first question was about Cruz's "New York values" comment. Cruz said those were Donald Trump's words originally. He immediately spoke of the difference between "liberal metro New York City and Upstate communities like Buffalo.

"Upstate has suffered for many years under liberal Democrat policies," said Cruz, who added that people "know what I mean" when discussing New York values.


Video produced by Nick Lippa

Cruz said he grew up admiring Jack Kemp, the former Congressman, Housing Secretary and Buffalo Bills quarterback from the football team's American Football League era. He credited Kemp as a leader in the "Reagan revolution" who taught people how to rise up from poverty through hard work. Cruz also touched on the U.S. national debt.

"National debt is like we got a credit card, went to Vegas and partied, and stuck kids with the bill," he said.

He also talked about Washington politics, which he called "amazingly corrupt." Cruz likened the gradual corruption of a Washington politician to fictional movie character Michael Corleone from The Godfather. As he explained, Corleone sought to live a legitimate life outside the world created by his mafia boss father, but he eventually evolved into a mob boss himself. 

Questioned about reaching out to moderates, Cruz suggested that they way to bring people together is the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He said it was not long ago that Democrats and Republicans stood together on religious freedom. He bashed the Obama administration for litigation against the Little Sisters of the Poor for their objection to the Obamacare requirement to provide contraception, something that does not agree with the Catholic doctrine the nuns follow.

Issues about protecting the unborn were discussed at more length during the meeting. Criticizing Hillary Clinton for her support of "partial birth" abortion, Cruz stated that 91 percent of Americans oppose the practice and her stance. Referring to videos of Planned Parenthood staffers discussing the sale of aborted body parts, Cruz linked it to the culture of the Obama administration. Cruz was critical of the U.S. Justice Department not investigating Planned Parenthood in light of the videos, which some have dismissed as misleading.

He said this generation of young people is the most pro-life in generations, with science further revealing the humanity of the unborn.

Cruz also expressed support of transgender legislation that requires such individuals to use bathrooms based upon a person's gender at birth. In his words, allowing teen boys to shower in the same space as teen girls is "nuts."

On national security, Cruz said he would build a wall, triple security and cut Federal support to cities that do not enforce Federal immigration laws. "I will secure borders, I will curb illegal immigration and keep this country safe," the U.S. Senator from Texas said.

In the final segment of the town hall meeting, Cruz called for the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service. Instead, he repeated his call for a flat tax at 10 percent.

Credit WBFO's Jerry Urban
Reporters gather at Charlie the Butcher in Cheektowaga, awaiting Ted Cruz

At noon, Cruz was expected to hold a photo op at Charlie the Butcher on Wehrle Road behind the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, before jumping on a plane to New York City. However, technical difficulties at the town hall meeting delayed taping some 45 minutes.

A new NY1/Baruch College poll finds Cruz trailing both Donald Trump and Ohio Governor John Kasich for the Republican nomination.  In his home state, the poll finds Trump is supported by 60 percent of likely Republican voters, while Kasich and Cruz have 17 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

One important topic in New York that did not come up in the town hall meeting was Cruz's strong support for fracking. "Fracking in New York State would create 20,000 jobs in one year at a cost to the taxpayers of zero dollars," Russ Gugino, local Cruz campaign coordinator, said. "Juxtapose that with what is happening in Buffalo. The State of New York is paying $750 million to a solar panel plant that could possibly produce 1,500 jobs in 10 years, maybe, we hope. What's the better deal here?"

Gugino said Cruz will be in Binghamton Friday for an event with members of the oil and gas industry.

There is no word on whether Kasich will make a stop in the Buffalo area. However, Trump is planning a rally at First Niagara Center on Monday.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.