Constituents Hold "Town Hall Without Ted Cruz" at Houston Headquarters

The Rev. James Caldwell leads the crowd in a prayer.
The Rev. James Caldwell leads the crowd in a prayer. Meagan Flynn
Scores of Texans gathered outside Senator Ted Cruz's Houston headquarters Tuesday in what they called a "Town Hall Without Ted Cruz."

The constituents had spent months trying to reach Cruz to voice concerns about issues including health care, the environment, immigration — yet their emails, phone calls and letters had gone unreturned. Funneling their frustration with the senator's silence at the protest Tuesday, they chanted "Ted Cruz, do your job!" and "What do we want? Town hall!" as cars drove by honking. Many of the protesters said they believed Cruz was hiding so that he didn't have to confront constituents with clashing beliefs — despite the fact that Cruz still represents them as a Texas senator.

"We made that decision to put them in office. And we do not work from them. They work for us That's why were out here today," said Rev. James Caldwell. "Where is Ted Cruz? It does not matter where he is. Because we're here, and we will be heard."

Turns out, Ted Cruz was upstairs listening to the whole thing unfold. Three groups of protesters had made arrangements to personally deliver to Cruz's office an invitation to a town hall held at Axelrad later that evening. When they arrived, they found the senator waiting to meet them personally — and to decline their invitations to that evening's town hall personally, too.

“The meeting was cordial, and our group spoke with him for about 40 minutes," Christy C. Callahan, a Galveston resident, said in a statement released yesterday night. "We will continue to hold demonstrations outside of his office every Tuesday at noon during the first 100 days since the Women’s March or until he agrees to meet with the public for a free and open town hall meeting about the issues."

Meanwhile, down on Travis Street, advocates from immigrant groups, Planned Parenthood and other groups took the megaphone one by one to voice grievances. For many at the rally, Cruz's plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act was among the most concerning issues affecting them personally. Earlier this month, Cruz debated the future of the ACA with Senate colleague Bernie Sanders live on CNN — yet although he staunchly called for its repeal, he provided scant detail about how the law would be replaced.

Judy Craft, who at one point led the crowd in singing the National Anthem, said that Cruz seemed to be leaning toward a time when those with pre-existing conditions could not obtain health insurance. Craft suffers from a host of chronic illnesses including diabetes, sleep apnea and chronic kidney disease, and said she is selling her house because her insurance premiums are too high. But still, she said, the ACA's mandate that no one with pre-existing conditions be turned away from health insurance has been her lifeline. 
click to enlarge Protesters sing the National Anthem. - MEAGAN FLYNN
Protesters sing the National Anthem.
Meagan Flynn
"I survived polio and hepatitis — but I'm not sure I'm going to survive this administration with Tom Price overseeing the Health and Human Services department," she said. "I have so many pre-existing conditions that I'm virtually un-insurable without the ACA."

Others like Viula Torgerson said that this was not the first time they had trekked over to the Cruz headquarters to have their voices heard. To Torgerson, it has been the GOP and President Donald Trump's immigration stance that have been most troubling. Yesterday, the White House released plans to expand deportations; while previously the federal government mostly focused on deporting criminals in the country illegally, now, the feds say they will "not exempt" any classes of undocumented immigrants from deportation, causing immigrant communities to fear an uptick in raids.

Torgerson called the immigration policies "inhumane" — but said she's frankly not quite as concerned about whatever Cruz plans to do.

"I don't care whether Ted Cruz holds a town hall or not," she said, "because I plan on voting him out."
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn