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At Texas GOP Convention, Cruz Makes No Mention Of Trump Or Call For Unity

Texas Republicans wrapped up their state convention in Dallas this weekend with a highly-anticipated speech from Sen. Ted Cruz.

When Cruz took the stage Saturday, he was treated like a political rock star. It’s clear that even though he suspended his campaign, many Texas GOP activists are not done cheering him on.

In his speech, Cruz shared highlights from the campaign. He talked about freedom, the constitution and how American values are under attack by President Obama and liberals.

Cruz also thanked his supporters. What he didn’t do was give those supporters any guidance on what to do next in the presidential race. He made no mention of assumed GOP nominee Donald Trump, no call for party unity. Instead, Cruz said his supporters had sparked a movement that was “bigger than any campaign.”

“We may face growing challenges ahead, but I am convinced that movement, the men and women gathered here, will be the remnant, will be the corps of pulling this country back from the abyss,” Cruz said.

The message from the party leadership and top Republicans at the Texas GOP convention was much clearer. “Unite,” said Gov. Greg Abbott.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who ran Cruz’s Texas campaign, emphasized healing.

"We must come together, we must support our Republican nominee for president: Donald Trump,” said Patrick.

  Not all of the party’s elected officials are willing to do that. State Sen. Konni Burton of Colleyville said she has always been frustrated by Republicans who did not live the conservative values they espoused. She says she can’t back Donald Trump just because he’s the party’s nominee. His tone and his style “do not represent principals we believe in,” she said.

“Before I was an elected official, I showed the hypocrisy of elected officials. I will continue to do that, regardless of who they are, even if it’s the one at the top of the ticket,” Burton said.

Over in the exhibitor’s hall, the Ted Cruz booth was decked out with thousands of hand written thank you notes. Long-time volunteer Carolyn Kistner of Midlothian says she’s holding out hope that somehow Cruz can still win, even though he suspended his campaign two weeks ago.

“He is not out. His name’s on the ballot. He still retains his delegates. So it ain’t over till the fat lady sings and she ain’t done that yet,” Kistner said.

Most Cruz supporters, though, seem to accept that Trump will be the nominee. That doesn’t mean they’re ready to step aboard the Trump Train.

“With Mr. Trump, one day he says this, one day he says that,” said Sheila Pradia of San Antonio. “I have to watch and see what he does.”

Over at the Trump booth in the exhibitor’s hall, supporters of the Donald were signing a huge banner that said, “Defeat Hillary Vote Trump.” Volunteers there said they gave away three thousand Trump T-shirts and a thousand of those red hats emblazoned with the campaign slogan: Make America Great Again.

Christopher Harvey of Houston snagged one of those hats. He was a Cruz supporter, he said, but now, he’s ready to back the Republican Party’s nominee.

“We’ve done it before. We did it with McCain, we did it with Romney,” Harvey said. “At the end of the day you look at the other people, you look at the other guy and you realize your guy ain’t that bad.”

Harvey figures Texas Republicans just need a little more time to join Team Trump. 

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.