CINCINNATI (AP) - Some veteran conservative activists in Ohio said Monday they are backing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president, releasing a joint announcement just three days after the state’s Republican Party endorsed Gov. John Kasich.
The three dozen people for Cruz come from anti-abortion groups and other conservative causes, and include some GOP officials around the state.
Lori Viars, a longtime anti-abortion leader who’s also been active in Republican politics in southwest Ohio, said Cruz “walks our walk” on the issues.
“He is the most conservative on the issues and when you look at his track record, it’s not just his words,” said Viars, who said she’ll be recruiting volunteers for Cruz’s campaign in Ohio, which has its primary March 15.
She and other Cruz backers such as Sue Hardbenbergh, a tea party activist in the eastern Cincinnati suburb of Anderson Township, said they are resisting a party establishment choice after seeing Democrat Barack Obama carry the state against John McCain and then Mitt Romney on his way to election. They think Cruz can fire up the state’s conservative base.
“We haven’t been winning,” Viars said. “We’re going to try to deliver this swing state to a real conservative for once.”
Brittany Warner, a state party spokeswoman, said Monday it supports Kasich as an Ohio Republican who has done a good job in the state. She also pointed to chairman Matt Borges’ comments after Friday’s party endorsement, when he noted Kasich won re-election overwhelmingly in 2014 and has high approval ratings in a state that’s been crucial to Republican presidential hopes.
“If Republicans want to win the White House, we must carry Ohio, and no one is going to come close to beating John Kasich in our battleground state,” Borges said Friday.
Molly Smith, Cleveland Right to Life leader, and Phil Burress, who leads the Citizens for Community Values and has campaigned against same-sex marriage and other gay rights issues, were among others endorsing Cruz on Monday.
Burress said there are other GOP candidates he’s been interested in, but decided it was time to choose one and get active to try to head off current front-runner Donald Trump’s campaign. He said conservatives “don’t want politics as usual,” but he’s worried about Trump’s outspoken style.
Ray Warrick, chairman of the Warren County Republican Party, wasn’t among those on Monday’s endorsement list, but he said right now, he’d consider Cruz his top choice and Trump his No. 2 pick.
“We need real change,” Warrick said while explaining why he isn’t backing Kasich.
Kasich picked up another endorsement Saturday when the state’s Republican U.S. senator, Rob Portman, said he was supporting him after earlier saying he was staying neutral. Portman served in the administrations of GOP candidate Jeb Bush’s father and brother.
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