Ted Cruz: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Him
Policy + Politics

Ted Cruz: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Him

The conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) – who just formally announced at Liberty University this morning that he’s running for president in 2016 – has been shaking up Washington ever since he arrived a little more than two short years ago.

The Tea Party-backed junior senator, 44, has never settled for a low profile. He took on Obamacare right out of the gate, engaging in a 21-hour filibuster and risking a partial government shutdown in 2013 to make his point that the health care reform law should be defunded.

Related: Cruz Is First to Declare a Run for President in 2016

“The American people overwhelmingly oppose Obamacare, which is killing jobs, dragging down the economy, and harming the most vulnerable,” Cruz said then and has often repeated. “They deserve a fight – and House Republicans are leading that charge.”

Just who is Ted Cruz? Here’s a look at the man James Carville called “the most talented and fearless Republican politician I’ve seen in the last 30 years. He touches every button … this guy has no fear.”

1: Ted Cruz was born Rafael Cruz in 1970 in Alberta, Canada – where his Cuban father, an immigrant, and his Irish-American mother, both computer programmers, moved from Texas for the 1960s oil boom.

2: Cruz says he’s “had two heroes in my life. My father and Ronald Reagan.”

Related: Why Jeb Bush Won't Follow the Herd on Taxes

3: The family returned to Houston in 1974, when Cruz was four. Rafael Edward Cruz, the senator’s father, had fled Cuba in 1957 as a staunch critic of Castro with only $100 sewn into his underwear – though he supported Castro early on and regretted that. The elder Cruz became a U.S. citizen in 2005 and is today, at 74, a pastor.

4: Ted Cruz obtained American citizenship as a newborn through his American mother, who was born in Delaware. He considers himself a natural born citizen because of his mother’s citizenship.

5: Raised in Houston, Cruz said he speaks “lousy” Spanish. In high school he participated in a group called the Free Market Education Foundation, where he learned about Milton Friedman and other free-market economic philosophers.

6: He memorized the Constitution as a teenager and recited it across the state with a group of high school students. They called themselves the Constitutional Corroborators.

7: He graduated from Houston’s Second Baptist High School in 1988 and was valedictorian of his class.

Related: Softball Questions for the GOP Frontrunners at CPAC

8: He was a champion debater at Princeton – and still wears his Princeton ring. After graduation in 1992 he attended Harvard Law School, where he became a founding editor of the Harvard Latino Law Review; he graduated in 1995. While at Harvard Law he reportedly refused to study with anyone who hadn’t spent their undergrad years at Harvard, Princeton or Yale. A GQ profile quoted Damon Watson, one of Cruz’s law-school roommates: “He said he didn’t want anybody from ‘minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown.”

9: In 1996, he became Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s first Hispanic law clerk and worked for him for a year.

10: He worked in private practice for a few years, then met Josh Bolten, George W. Bush’s campaign policy director (also a Princeton alum). He became a domestic policy adviser to Bush during the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.

11: He married Heidi Nelson Cruz, another policy adviser, in 2001. They have two daughters. 

Related: Mike Huckabee: 13 Things You Didn't Know

12: When the election ended in a recount, the couple went to Florida to work for Bush’s team.

13: For two years, 2001-2002, Cruz worked as a lawyer in the Bush administration, serving as assistant attorney general in the Justice Dept. and director of policy planning at the Federal Trade Commission.

14: In 2003, he was appointed solicitor general of Texas. In five years there, he wrote 70 briefs to the Supreme Court and argued before the court nine times. He was involved in numerous high-profile cases, including defending the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and the 2003 Texas redistricting plan.

15: From 2008 to 2012 he worked as a private appellate attorney in Houston.

Related: Why Scott Walker Is Drawing Fire from the Right

16: In April 2011 he declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. In July 2012 he won the GOP nomination in a runoff with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, called “the biggest upset of 2012” by The Washington Post.

17: On November 6, 2012, he became the first Latino elected to the Senate from Texas.

18: Then-South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s PAC and the anti-tax Club for Growth both opened their wallets to support Cruz’s campaign.

19: He favors black ostrich-skin cowboy boots, something he calls his “argument boots” (he’s worn them frequently while arguing court cases).

20: He’s a “man of many contrasts,” said The Houston Chronicle: The “widespread national emphasis on Cruz as a symbol of growing Latino clout in the GOP – underscored by his prime time speech at the Republican National Convention in August [of 2012] – obscures the emergence of Cruz as a leader in the new wave of conservatives who don’t fit the traditional political labels of their parents’ generation.”

This article was updated on March 23, 2015 at 10:49 a.m. 

Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: