THE BRONX — A handful of Hasidic Jews, an Asian baby, two men in cowboy hats, a UCB performer and some protesters walked into a Chino-Latino restaurant. Oh, and Ted Cruz was there too.
Fresh off a major victory in Wisconsin on Tuesday night, the senator from Texas hosted a last-minute event billed as a “meet and greet,” north of 149th street in the Bronx. Embedded in a heavily Latino community, Sabrosura 2 was teeming with more reporters than the several dozen attendees, as Cruz strolled through the restaurant for an interview with “Good Morning America.”
While he was busy, 35-year-old Rodrigo Starz sat at a table in the middle of the restaurant, waiting for his moment to disrupt the proceedings.
“It’s ironic that a presidential candidate with such an anti-immigrant stance is coming to the Bronx,” Starz told The Daily Beast, as his friend filmed the exchange with a what appeared to be a GoPro camera.
As Cruz disappeared into the rear of the restaurant, with anti-gay pastor and state senator Ruben Diaz Sr. in tow, a family clad in Cruz gear with a small baby sat near the would-be disruptors, occasionally poking at the plate of oysters in front of them.
Cruz left his “supporters” with a lot of time to mill about and chat with reporters, patiently waiting for the senator to emerge.
Ben Tumin, who came from Brooklyn wearing a “Cruz’N for a Brusin” shirt sat alone, leaning on a crutch he had been using to get up and down the stairs. He earnestly told a slew of reporters that he was excited to vote for Cruz because he’s a true conservative.
This is not true.
Tumin, as his website “The Chaff” describes him, is a writer and performer with the improvisation group Upright Citizens Brigade. He recently tweeted an unfortunate image of Ted Cruz during a debate in which a white fleshy substance splatted onto his lip. The caption reads: “take one look at this man and tell me you wouldn’t f**k him! #CruzSexScandal.”
Such was the climate of the senator’s event. The base of Cruz’s support, Evangelical Christians, did not turn out in great numbers like they have elsewhere. Unlike his primary competitor in the Republican contest, Donald Trump, Cruz doesn’t often face protesters on the trail. Iowa, and most recently Wisconsin, have turned up more friendly crowds.
But there’s a first time for everything.
Starz sprung to life as Cruz was set to exit his backroom meeting, wading through the crowd to get closer to the object of his hatred. “Ted Cruz has no business being in the Bronx,” he yelled as police began to usher him out.
There were at least two people politely standing in the restaurant who didn’t have interest in berating the man they came to see.
Lazer Axelman, a 24-year-old Libertarian with movie star looks, clutched a cowboy hat in his hands while messing with the locks of his hair.
“He’s the first person who’s ever come out and actually espoused constitutional values,” Axelman told The Daily Beast about Cruz. He had gotten the senator to sign his hat when he met him in Miami last month. Unfortunately, due to his registration as a Libertarian, he can’t back his man on the ballot in the New York primary.
“I think it’s a silly rule but I think a whole lot of the rules are really silly,” Axelman lamented. He thinks Cruz has the best shot of securing the nomination at a contested Republican convention, basically a foregone conclusion at this point.
Waiting in the wings, as Cruz approached a gaggle of press, Axelman hoped Cruz would sign his hat with the fateful date of their first meeting.
During a short question-and-answer session, Cruz condemned New York values once again, saying that Trump’s support of liberal candidates in the past typifies this value system.
“Donald has no solutions,” Cruz said of his opponent, who is currently clearing 50 percent in New York, according to Monmouth University poll released today.
When he hit the sidewalk underneath the roar of a passing 6 train, Cruz was quickly ushered into a black SUV waiting for him. The campaign previously canceled a visit to the Lighthouse Academy in the Bronx, with little explanation.
A 16-year-old student from the school, Destiny, said she and her classmates told the principal they would protest if Cruz visited their school. The senator’s campaign and the school’s administration have not responded to the Daily Beast to confirm the reason for cancellation.
Before Cruz was whisked away from the concrete jungle that spat him out like a mealy apple, one other protester got his message out to the airwaves.
“You’re not going to win, you’re not natural born,” the man, who wouldn’t give The Daily Beast his name, shouted with a camera hoisted into the air. This, of course, is a reference to the fact that Cruz was born in Canada, something Trump has needled him mercilessly for in the past.
It was a rough and tumble visit in a state where Cruz desperately needs to win some support before the April 19 primary, with 95 delegates at stake.
As he drove away from the hectic restaurant, some protesters remained clamoring to get a message to Cruz or anyone who would listen.
Axelman smiled at The Daily Beast and tipped his hat. The date “3/4/16” was written in Sharpie under the brim.