Freshman Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz has pledged to oppose gun control legislation by any means necessary. (Photo/Getty Images )

Sen.Ted Cruz: Partisan firebrand, or just doing his job?

The Republican party might be debating how to be a “kinder,
gentler” party, but Republican Senator
Ted Cruz
is standing firm on his Tea Party street cred.
The freshman Texas Senator has been in the cross-hairs lately
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill compared
to infamous anti-communist Senator Joe McCarthy,
for his aggressive questioning of Obama Defense Secretary nominee
Chuck Hagel, who happens to be a former Republican Senator. On
immigration, Cruz has said that a path to citizenship for
undocumented citizens is “amnesty.” And in case anyone doubts
Cruz’ opposition to gun control legislation, the Senator recently
held a press event
at a Texas manufacturer of
semi-automatic and automatic rifles, saying “no amount of
stripping the rights of the men and women here to defend themselves
– will do anything to prevent violent criminals from carrying out
horrific acts,” Cruz said. Is the new Texas Senator being too
confrontational? Cruz does not think so. When
this week about the chorus of criticism
surrounding him, including being compared to McCarthy, he said
“that’s the way of Washington and I’ve got a thick skin.” And
some Texas Latino Republicans agree.

“Ted is doing exactly what he
was elected to do,” says George
, one of the co-founders, along with George
P. Bush
, of the Hispanic Republicans
of Texas, a group which supported Cruz’ election.
“He is doing a great job of representing our state,” says
Antuna. “A lot of people want him to sit back and be a spectator,
but politics is not a spectator sport. You have to get in there,”
said Antuna. Conservative Republican
Joshua Treviño
, vice president for communications at the
Texas Public Policy
, says Cruz “is answerable to one
constituency only – and is the Texans who elected him.”
Treviño adds that the Cuban-American Senator won by a
considerable margin (14 points) against his Democratic challenger.
In this legislative term, however, many in the GOP are looking to
make inroads with Latinos and other voters. One way some Republican
legislators are doing this is by trying to reach a compromise with
Democrats on certain key issues, first and foremost immigration
reform. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who also
shares Tea Party roots, has changed his stance on a pathway to
citizenship and is now part of the prominent Senate “Gang of
Eight,” trying to craft bipartisan reform. Cruz,
however, has stated his opposition to the Dream Act as
well as his opposition to a pathway to legalization, calling it
amnesty. Republican strategist Danny Vargas say that while he may
not agree with a lot of the positions Cruz takes, “he is a
reflection of the state he represents. He is not there to
represent the Latino community; I don’t think that is why he ran
for office,” says Vargas. “I think it’s interesting we have
such diversity in our politicians,” he adds. There is also the
question about changing demographics, and some think Texas will
become more moderate as more Latinos come of political age in the
state. “Cruz is not sustainable in the long-term,” says political
scientist Jessica
, of the University of Texas-Pan
. “Republicans in the state should see him
as a liability in terms of bringing Latino voters into their fold,”
she says. Vargas thinks Cruz might shift his more confrontational
tone at some point. “We see a maturing process in a lot of
politicians. When you meet face to face with the reality of
governing, you learn there are times you have to break bread
together,” he says. But Latino
political scientist and former Texas A&M
Sylvia Manzano
says Cruz might not have any intention of
tacking to the center anytime soon – if he even does. “Cruz has
such strong ideological positions, it’s hard for me to imagine him
moderating his positions,” Manzano says. “He might want to be
more of an ideological leader than a party leader.” For now, the
freshman Senator is firmly in place for six years, as Treviño
points out, “in politics, that’s an eternity.”

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