- Associated Press - Monday, February 15, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s newly announced leadership team in Wisconsin includes some of the state’s most conservative Republican lawmakers, a coalition similar to ones he’s built elsewhere as he tries to unite the tea party wing of the GOP behind his presidential candidacy.

Wisconsin state Sen. Duey Stroebel, a Republican from Cedarburg, announced Monday that he will be serving as Cruz’s campaign chairman in the state. Six of the state’s most conservative state representatives also endorsed Cruz on Monday, seven weeks ahead of the state’s April 5 presidential primary.

Cruz said in a statement that the lawmakers will help him bring together “strong conservatives” to help him win the state.

Cruz’s Wisconsin coalition is smaller and includes more far-right conservatives than the state team backing presidential candidate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, which includes the three highest-ranking members of the state Assembly, the co-chair of the Legislature’s powerful budget committee and more than a dozen others.

Republicans need to coalesce around one candidate, said Stroebel, who believes Cruz is the most conservative choice. But to win Wisconsin, Stroebel said, Cruz needs to “educate people more and more about what he stands for.”

Stroebel, who ran for Congress in 2014 but lost in the Republican primary, said he was particularly impressed with Cruz’s stand in Iowa against ethanol subsidies, a move that angered the state’s powerful ethanol lobby and led to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad calling for Cruz’s defeat. Cruz won nonetheless.

“He put a dagger in the heart of what is truly an institution to the people of Iowa,” Stroebel said. “He has shown he’s a stalwart, he’s unwavering.”

Other Wisconsin lawmakers endorsing Cruz are Reps. Andre Jacque, Jesse Kremer, Dean Knudson, Adam Neylon, Bob Gannon and David Craig. Stroebel said more would be announced in the weeks leading up to the primary. Cruz was campaigning this week in South Carolina ahead of its Feb. 20 primary and he has not announced any Wisconsin stops yet.

Those backing Cruz have been supportive of some of the most conservative proposals put forward in Wisconsin in recent years.

Kremer is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit transgender school students from using the bathroom of the sex they identify with, and instead force them to use facilities consistent with their sex at birth. Jacque sponsored a bill to ban research on university campuses using fetal tissue obtained from abortion.

Last month, Gannon last month flipped off the Democratic leader on the floor of the state Assembly during a heated debate over Milwaukee’s crime rate. Gannon apologized after at the urging of Speaker Robin Vos, who is backing Rubio.

Scot Ross, head of the liberal activist group One Wisconsin Now, said Cruz “has assembled a cast of unlikable and unaccomplished right wing extremists from Wisconsin.”


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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