On the second day of stumping for U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz brought a heavily Tea Party-influenced message to Kenai Peninsula voters.
During a rally that drew close to 200 people to the Soldotna Sports Center on Sunday, Cruz, R-Texas, sought to draw comparisons between incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.
Cruz is one of two high-profile politicians from Outside who are making the rounds in Alaska during the days leading up to the election — former presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in Anchorage tonight along with Gov. Sean Parnell and Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Cruz and Sullivan framed Alaska’s race as one of the deciding factors in the Republican Party’s attempt to gain control of the Senate.
“On Tuesday, the fate of the country is going to be decided here in Alaska,” Sullivan said. “It is very likely, the control of the United State Senate and whether we continue rubber stamping the Obama administration’s agenda, (the) explosion of debt, no jobs, liberal judges, whether that continues or we start to roll that back and rip it up by the roots.”
Cruz said the nation was focused on Alaska.
“A Senate race is, in a real sense, a national battle,” he said. “A good senator, a senator who stands up to fight to defend liberty, defend the Constitution and defend growth, helps all 50 states.”
Cruz’s fiery rhetoric struck a chord with many in the audience as he touched on gun control, repealing Obamacare, protecting religious liberty and putting Alaska the forefront of an “energy renaissance” in the United States. Many in the crawd called themselves Tea Party conservatives, and several wore buttons and T-shirts supporting former GOP senate candidate Joe Miller.
During a three-way Republican primary in August, which Sullivan won with about 40 percent of the vote, Miller — a Tea Party candidate — finished second with 32 percent.
For some, having Cruz openly support Sullivan helped to resolve lingering doubts about the candidate.
“We love Ted Cruz. We like Dan Sullivan. I’d like to learn more about him, but for now he’s got to be our go-to guy,” said Keith Nushart, who attended the rally with his wife Dawn Nushart. “If Ted Cruz is going to stand by him, we will too at this point.”
The Nushart’s said they had supported Joe Miller, but had to shift focus to Sullivan after Miller lost the primary.
“We’re going to keep an eye out,” Dawn Nushart said. “We’ll see how he votes, watch what he does and keep his feet to the fire.”
While the vast majority of the audience crowded around Cruz after the rally, standing in line to take photos with the senator and ask about his plans for the 2016 presidential race, some — Like Al and Bunny Chong — made their way straight to Sullivan.
“We came the very first time that (Sullivan) came here and listened to him and we looked at the different topics and (we) talked about it and we decided to support him,” Bunny Chong said.
Al Chong, who said he does not vote along party lines, said he wanted a person like Sullivan in office.
Bunny Chong said Cruz’s speech did not change her mind about Sullivan and that she had been more interested in seeing Sullivan again than she was seeing the Texas conservative.
“I thought it was nice that he would come all the way to provide a voice for Dan Sullivan, so he could say he supports everything (Sullivan) wants to do for Alaska and America.”