Ted Cruz takes questions at intimate UB town hall

Republican presidential candidate talks conservative values at Katharine Cornell Theater

Just three days after Bernie Sanders held a rally that packed thousands of people into Alumni Arena, Ted Cruz held a smaller, more intimate town hall discussion with MSNBC in the Katharine Cornell Theater in the Ellicott Complex Thursday.

The theater, which held approximately 300 students and residents from around the area, was covered in American-themed decor and the MSNBC name as Cruz spoke on a range of topics from abortion and contraceptives, to border issues and immigration. Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate and Texas senator, also took questions from the audience addressing his policies, past comments and his place in the current presidential election.

“Ted Cruz is a very polished speaker,” said Peter Yacobusci, a Buffalo resident. “I don’t think that anything he said will reach any voters, not in his base. With his mostly evangelical voter base, his pro-life stance works well, but most of Americans and the country is pro-choice or moderately so.”

MSNBC reporter Chuck Todd asked Cruz about his stance against abortion and contraceptives. Cruz put a religious context on the question by questioning the stance the Democratic Party has taken on the subject.

“One of the saddest things we’ve seen is the retreat of the Democratic Party from religious liberty,” Cruz said. “Hillary Clinton’s views on abortion are radical and extreme.”

Audience members asked Cruz questions in between Cruz’s segments with Todd.

When the audience asked Cruz about the representation of moderate Republicans, who are fiscally conservative but socially liberal, he responded with analysis of political corruption and career politicians.

“Most people that run for office believe in something, they want to make a change,” Cruz said. “The thing is Washington is so corrupt and it corrupts incrementally.”

Cruz would use this opportunity to equate politicians looking for re-election to the “Godfather” movie series.

“After every movie Corleone becomes more corrupt and everyone dies at the end of the end of these movies, it’s like politicians looking to get re-elected,” Cruz said.

Todd then played a clip of Cruz calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor. Cruz said people’s reactions to his statement were unexpected.

“They weren’t upset somebody lied. They were upset somebody said it out loud,” Cruz said.

Cruz also addressed his “New York values” comment, which caused a bit of controversy, particularly among New York City residents, back in January. Cruz said the values of upstate New York are tremendous and that he was referring to liberal politicians.

Alexis Ogra, president of UB College Republicans, said Cruz handled the questions effectively.

“I thought the questions were chosen extremely well, especially when he went to clarify his comments on New York values, which were really referring to downstate liberals, not those from upstate New York,” Ogra said. “[Although,] I really wanted to hear his views on the second amendment and firearms.”

Other students, like Maximillian Budynek, a junior political science major, wished there had been questions for Cruz about topics that haven’t already been covered.

“It was interesting, but there was nothing surprising to me. He answered questions well and he covered the relevant issues,” Budynek said. “I’m an undecided vote, so I’m just looking to test the waters.”

When Todd asked Cruz about whether or not he would run as Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s vice president if that’s what the delegates wanted, Cruz responded empathically, “Chuck, not a chance.”

Cruz is currently trailing behind Trump in delegates, but looks to close that gap in the New York Republican primary on April 19.

Trump will hold a rally at the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo on Monday at 7 p.m.

Kenneth Kashif Thomas is the senior arts editor and can be reached at kenneth.thomas@ubspectrum.com.