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Election

Florida Pastor Begins Never Trump, Never Hillary Campaign

Urges Hispanics to Not Vote for Flawed Candidates

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Aug. 5, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Believing both the Republican and Democrat presidential candidates hold beliefs and policy positions that are at odds with Evangelical Hispanics, Florida pastor Eddie Rodriguez has begun a campaign to urge like-minded Hispanic voters to not pander to either side. Instead he is challenging fellow Latinos to stick by their core beliefs, even if it means not supporting either candidate for President in 2016, unless they demonstrate significant changes in their representations or rhetoric.

“With more Hispanics self-identifying as Evangelical, Latinos are becoming an important voting block; we need to show the candidates and the parties that our vote is not a given, but rather must be earned,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, founder of A Place Called Hope Church in West Palm Beach, Florida, is a board member of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference(NHCLC), the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization representing 40,000 churches in America and another 500,000 worldwide. He previously served as the superintendent of the Florida Multicultural District of the Assemblies of God, and also founded Love Tabernacle In West Palm Beach and a church in Asuncion, Paraguay.

In urging his fellow Latinos to abstain from supporting either 2016 presidential candidate, Rodriguez stresses the main points in which Hispanic Evangelical’s differ from them. In addition to Republican candidate Donald Trump’s lack of a social or financial plan for the country, Rodriguez noted that his rhetoric shows a lack of compassion for the disenfranchised, including immigrants, Muslims and other minority groups. Another important concern for Rodriguez is a heart issue, as he believes it is disconcerting for Trump to say that he has never nor will ever apologize to anyone, not even God.

On the other side, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s position on abortion is a hindrance Rodriguez believes keeps Hispanic Evangelicals from offering her their support. He also cautioned that conservative values would be threatened by her administration’s appointment of liberal judges that will do violence to the Constitution and a biblical worldview.

“Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump have substantively articulated the road to legitimacy for millions of illegals with American-born children who live productive lives, which is a huge human issue in our reality,” Rodriguez said.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez (no relation), NHCLC president, emphasized that Pastor Eddie Rodriguez reflects the angst of the Hispanic Evangelical community, and his challenge demonstrates that many Latino voters remain undecided, reflecting an opportunity for both candidates to address matters of importance and concern to the Hispanic community.

“The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference represents people and groups with a wide variety of viewpoints,” said Samuel Rodriguez. “We are a big tent that allows for meaningful dialogue on important cultural issues. As an organization, we have never and will never endorse a candidate or a political party. Our commitment to the Lamb’s Agenda – not to the Donkey or the Elephant – remains stronger than ever. And, this election cycle demonstrates an unprecedented need for an independent Christian movement to emerge.”

NHCLC/CONEL is the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization, which serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and hundreds of thousands of additional congregations spread worldwide throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora. For additional information, visit http://www.nhclc.org.

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Latino Republicans Blast Donald Trump, Warn GOP Candidates to Not to Use

Donald Trump swears “the Hispanics love me” and that he’ll win the presidency with their votes, but a group of conservative Hispanics say that’s not so, Politico reports. You take us for granted now, we will not recognize you then”, Discussing the aim of the news source conference on MSNBC’s “Live With José Díaz-Balart,”the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership Director Alfonso Aguilar stated, “We’re saying Donald Trump, we are done with you. You insult us now, we will be deaf to you then”, said Rosario Marin, who served as U.S. Treasurer under President George W. Bush”.

It was also attended by leaders from other grassroots groups, including the Latino Coalition, Hispanic Leadership Fund and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference – all key groups engaged in building support for Republicans among the Latino community.

“Foolishly, a few candidates think they don’t need the Hispanic vote in the primary, so they pander to the voters with extreme views instead of just showing us who they are”, Marín added. “Heed our warning, don’t expect us to come to your side during the general election…If you are not with us now, we will not be with you then. If you are not with us now, we will not be with you then'”. Organizers of the meeting told Fox News Latino the objective was to discuss concerns about the rhetoric a few candidates, particularly Trump, have used in this election cycle that they said was hostile and discriminatory against Latinos.
The coalition will hold its next meeting December. 14, on the eve of the final GOP debate of the year in Las Vegas, where they may call out other candidates for their positions on immigration. Trump is viewed unfavorably by 72 percent of Hispanics, with 6 in 10 having a very unfavorable opinion of him, the AP-GfK poll finds.

Nonetheless, Trump says Hispanics love him.

At the same time that Republican Latino leaders are pushing the party to pick a candidate they can support, liberal groups are using Wednesday’s debate to argue that Latinos should avoid the GOP altogether. “If you do, we’ll eventually single you out, as well”.

“Maybe a few candidates believe that we will forget, let me be crystal clear”. And if candidates haven’t stepped it up, they could be denounced. Eligible Hispanic voters raised by an estimate of 3 million and 3.5 million voters every presidential election, Politico noted.

Latino Victory Project a non-partisan organization that has increased voter outreach based off Trump’s remarks recently applauded the group for condemning Trump but said not so fast, there are more people in the field who are being offensive.

“We’re happy to see that a few Latino conservatives are finally doing the bare minimum and making it clear they won’t support Donald Trump for President”.

Trump’s provocative comments about the character of immigrants and his plans for mass deportation and construction of a wall all along the Mexican border stirred a backlash from Hispanic groups.

Denver college student Adrian Nava took part in a roundtable of progressive Latino activists Tuesday He’s struggling to pay tuition, and can’t ask his undocumented parents for help because all their money is going to immigration lawyers.

Original story can be read here: http://newzy.net/2015/10/29/latino-republicans-blast-donald-trump-warn-gop-candidates.html

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Hispanic Church Leader: ‘No Presidential Candidate’ Has Authority to Extinguish Liberty’s Lamp

As American Christians committed to being light in a world darkened by sin, terrorism and fear, we must affirm our commitment to religious liberty as the proverbial firewall against totalitarianism.

For that matter, while our government must protect our citizenry from individuals committed to terror, death and destruction, we cannot and must not embrace policies that incorporate a religious litmus test for those legally responding to the compassionate invitation written on the Statue of Liberty. It behooves all of us to revisit those powerful words:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

For that matter, no presidential candidate, elected official or branch of government carries the authority to extinguish the aforementioned lamp. With a commitment to building a firewall against Islamic extremism and protecting our most cherished of values, we must make certain that the lamp will shine the light of freedom for Christians, Jews, Muslims and all others yearning to breathe free. 

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization.

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Presidential Hopeful Carly Fiorina Doesn’t Mince Words With Christian Pastors

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of tech giant Hewlett Packard and 2016 GOP Presidential primary contender, minced few words on a conference call with members of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference on Friday.

“We need more than Supreme Court justices who profess fealty for conservative traditional values, we need justices who stand up in the face of pressure,” Fiorina, whose late father was a judge on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, said.

She said America “must redouble our efforts to protect religious liberty in this country. It is stunning that the Supreme Court has to hear a case where federal government is trying to impose its values on a religious order, the Little Sisters of the Poor. … We have reached a dangerous place.”

The nearly one-hour call placed Fiorina, currently averaging 3.2 percent support in national polls, down from 6.3 percent in mid-August, in front of evangelical pastors representing one of the church’s fastest-growing communities. Hispanics, NHCLC President Rev. Sam Rodriguez pointed out, have a thriving and growing middle class that is threatened by increased taxation and regulation.

Fiorina agreed, noting, “We have a 73,000-page tax code, a regulatory thicket that is impenetrable. When I talk about government crushing the small and the powerless, government is indeed crushing entrepreneurs. If there is not enough job creation, we cannot lift people out of poverty.”

Fiorina stressed the need for teachers and school administrators to recognize “the God-given gifts, dignity and value of every child. While that may seem obvious, there are some (educators) who aren’t quite sure of that.” She supported downsizing the federal Department of Education, and said “to give parents choices, we need to empower families,” which she said included giving them options for “parochial schooling, homeschooling and charter schools.”

While not directly addressing the status of an estimated 12 million undocumented aliens currently in the United States, Fiorina decried harsh rhetoric from some GOP contenders on the question of immigration and border security. Although his name wasn’t mentioned, it was clear she was referring chiefly to Donald J. Trump, who pledged to deport the undocumented and build a “wall” on the southern border of the United States.

“Unhelpful rhetoric divides our nation, and it plays on the fears of people,” Fiorina said. “Fear is not redemptive, it is one of the tools of the devil.”

She added that “immigration has been the source of our vitality and growth” as a nation, and pledged to fix the system for legal immigration to the U.S.

On the controversial issue of abortion, Fiorina, who blasted Planned Parenthood for reportedly selling parts of aborted fetuses for medical research, said the question was a personal one for her.

“My husband’s mother was told to abort him. … We have been together 34 years and I have thought often how different my life would be if she had made a different choice,” Fiorina said, noting that she was unable to have children of her own, “so I know at a very personal level how precious a gift life is.”

She added that the Planned Parenthood case means “we can finally touch the hearts of so many Americans who might not have wanted to think about this issue. … [And] as we make progress with Americans, even those who don’t know they agree with us, we are going to win this battle.”

Fiorina, who said she had a close relationship with God and Jesus Christ in her youth, admitted her concept shifted during her adult years, imagining God to be a “super CEO” uninvolved with the details of individual lives. One Christmas morning, however, she said her perspective suddenly and permanently changed.

“I thought that human beings created a GPS where technology can keep track of billions of parts and give precise instructions,” she explained. “If mankind is capable of that, then Jesus Christ is capable of having a relationship with each of us.”

Having made that commitment, Fiorina said, “Over the next several years, that relationship was tested.” She battled cancer and, in 2009, mourned the death of her stepdaughter Lori, who had lost a battle with addiction.

“I know those tests drew me closer to God and deepened my relationship with Jesus Christ,” she added. “I pray this journey will take me to the place God intends.”

Original article can be read here: http://www.charismanews.com/politics/primaries/53374-presidential-hopeful-carly-fiorina-doesn-t-mince-words-with-christian-pastors

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GOP Latinos Slam Ted Cruz and Self-Deportation Plan On Eve of Debate

A group of Hispanic Republicans who condemned Donald Trump for his anti-immigrant rhetoric before the last GOP debate, publicly criticized Ted Cruz on the eve of Tuesday’s debate for embracing the idea of self-deportation of immigrants illegally in the United States.

Cruz’s campaign chairman, Chad Sweet, and other staff attended a closed-door meeting with Latino Republican leaders and said unequivocally that Cruz opposes any form of legalization for immigrants already in the U.S. without legal permission, said Alfonso Aguilar, director of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, who has been a spokesman for the group that met in Las Vegas.

“They stated very clearly the senator believes in ‘attrition through enforcement,'” Aguilar said Monday. He added that, based on the explanation, Cruz is backing self deportation but calling it by another name.

“For all intents and purposes (self deportation) describes what they are proposing,” said Aguilar.

Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier later said in an emailed statement that “anyone who truly cares about fixing illegal immigration understands that we must secure the border and enforce the law, and that includes building a wall that works, strengthening E-verify, and enforcing the law including deportation of those who are here illegally.”

Meanwhile, Cruz has been rising in the polls and has taken second place to Trump.

And Republican Hispanics also are concerned that Cruz has gone out of his way to embrace Trump, whose rhetoric against immigrants, particularly Mexicans, has been seen by many as offensive.

His support of Trump would prevent him from getting Latino support, Aguilar said.

“We are very united,” Aguilar said. “More than ever after the Cruz presentation. We don’t want to elect just any Republican. We want to promote someone we think will respond to the Hispanic community and conservative principles.”

The group did applaud Cruz’s support for increasing legal immigration. Sweet repeatedly told the group Cruz wants to be the champion of legal immigration, Aguilar said.

“He said there’s no better friend than Ted Cruz to legal immigration,” Aguilar said.

The group had considered criticizing Cruz when they blasted Trump, but some group leaders opposed taking on the Texas senator at the time.

Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which has supported Cruz, said he found what Cruz’s campaign said “alarming, surprising, concerning.”

He said it was the first time he’d heard that position from the campaign and was reaching out to Cruz to clarify.

“He’s been a good friend of evangelicals and supporting religious freedom, where we stand on Israel and where we stand on life,” Suarez said. “We knew there was a difference of opinion but what was said today by his campaign was very alarming and concerning. Hopefully the senator, if that is in fact where he stands, will change his mind. And if not, we hope we can continue meeting and talking this through and being able to show the difficult position he’s putting conservative groups in.”

‘”This is deja vu for Mitt Romney,” Suarez said.

Romney expressed support for a mass deportation plan and only won 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012.

Original article can be read here: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/gop-latinos-slam-ted-cruz-self-deportation-plan-eve-debate-n480011

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Factcheck: Ted Cruz Supported Path to Legal Status in 2013

Though he denied supporting legal status for unauthorized immigrants during Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate, Sen. Ted Cruz told Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in 2013 that he would support such a measure.

“Look, I understand Marco [Rubio] wants to raise confusion, it is not accurate what he just said that I supported legalization,” Texas presidential candidate Cruz said at the CNN GOP presidential debate last night.

He was responding to Florida senator and fellow candidate Rubio’s contention that Cruz’s position on immigration had not been much different than his own.

But in November 2013, Cruz met with the president of NHCLC, the largest Evangelical Hispanic organization in the country, and several other people at his office. In that meeting, according to NHCLC President Rev. Rodriguez, Cruz said he would support a path to legal status, though not a path to citizenship, for current unauthorized immigrants.

The meeting with Cruz took place during the NHCLC’s “Justice Summit” in Washington, D.C. Participants spoke with many members of Congress during the two-day event.

During a Justice Summit panel session moderated by Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and executive editor of The Christian Post, Rodriguez, a senior editorial advisor for CP, talked about his meeting with Cruz. You can read CP’s coverage of the event here.

At the time, Rodriguez and the late Robert Gittelson, NHCLC VP of governmental relations, explained to attendees that they were debating whether to support a path to legal status as a compromise position, even though they would prefer a path to citizenship.

“I would like to have a path to citizenship. I would love even more for everybody to be safe. For all of our families to be able to live in dignity, for all of our families to live above board and live a normal productive life and pursue the American dream. They can do that without a path to citizenship, as long as they have a significant legal status,” Gittelson said.

Rodriguez and Gittelson appeared hopeful that some immigration reform measures would pass, but House Republican leaders were unable to corral the necessary votes to bring any reform measures up for a floor vote.

While there are some differences between Rubio and Cruz on immigration, Rubio was correct to say that Cruz’s previous positions are not that far from his own.

Rubio, like Rodriguez, would prefer a path to citizenship, but recognizes that a path to legal status, a path that includes restitution, is a more viable compromise. While Cruz has not supported a path to citizenship, he has previously stated his support for a path to legal status.

Original article can be read here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/ted-cruz-supported-path-to-legal-status-in-2013-152625/print.html

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Latino leaders criticize Cruz’s support for form of “self-deportation”

Tonight’s Republican presidential debate will likely again include questions on immigration, which has emerged as a dominant theme among the GOP contenders with billionaire Donald Trump waging some of the harshest rhetoric against immigrants seen in recent years. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, running neck-and-neck with Trump in Iowa, has until now remained largely vague on the issue, reiterating his opposition to “amnesty” but not ruling out a path to legalization once the border is secure, which he calls his priority. But as Trump began lashing out at his closest competitor this month, Cruz revealed his stance to the right of Mitt Romney’s so-called “self-deportation,” in which the former Massachusetts governor advocated making life so difficult for immigrants here illegally that they would leave on their own. It came in the midst of Trump’s attacks on Cruz as unqualified to be president and accusing him of being beholden to oil companies because he opposes ethanol subsidies, popular in Iowa. So far, Trump had spared Cruz from criticism but as the Texan began gaining on Trump, the businessman changed course. He also suggested Cruz might have difficulty appealing to the state’s evangelical voters because of his Cuban heritage. Days later, Cruz’s campaign chairman met with a group of Latino conservatives to detail his stance on immigration. Buzzfeed reports that Chad Sweet explained: ADVERTISEMENT “Cruz opposes any and all forms of legalization for undocumented immigrants … he believes in attrition through enforcement — or making the lives of those in the country illegally so hard that they go back to their native countries. That, the group said, amounts to self-deportation, a policy supported by Mitt Romney in 2012 widely credited with hurting him with Hispanic voters.” “We learned today that Sen. Cruz believes in attrition through enforcement,” Alfonso Aguilar of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership and de facto leader of the group said, adding that the Cruz camp doesn’t like to call it self-deportation “but that’s what it is.” The position, Aguilar later told reporters, is “perhaps even worse” than Trump’s plan to deport all 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. The group has already said it could not support Trump as the GOP nominee due to his hard-line immigration proposals. ADVERTISEMENT Asked about the campaign’s meeting with the group Monday, a Cruz spokeswoman told the Texas Tribune that the discussion reflects the senator’s belief in enforcing the law. “Enforcing the law is enforcing the law no matter how anyone wants to spin it,” spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said. “Our legal immigration system is a mess because there’s a political unwillingness among politicians in Washington to enforce our laws.” Members of the Latino group said they were alarmed by Sweet’s remarks, which they interpreted as unbending opposition to offering any form of legalization. “We really need him to clarify because … we heard today for the first time as we’ve never heard from his campaign before,” Rev. Tony Suarez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told the Texas Tribune. His campaign officials said Cruz is an ardent supporter of legal immigration, promising the Hispanic group that “once they reviewed all the immigrant visas, that they would call for an increase in legal immigration and visas.” The immigration plan Cruz laid out last month, however, only calls for stopping “any increases in legal immigration so long as American unemployment remains unacceptably high.” Cruz himself seemed to embrace self-deportation in a recent talk radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, a conservative Catholic, but he also seemed to leave the door open to eventual legalization: “You deport the criminal illegal aliens. The population continues to shrink. After that, you put in place strong E-verify so those here illegally can’t get jobs. The population continues to shrink. And then once we have finally demonstrated to the American people that we have secured the border, the problem’s solved, it’s not a promise from a politician, it’s not empty words, it’s been done, then and only then, I think we should have a conversation with the American people about what we should do about whatever smaller population remains. But I don’t think we should start there at the front end. We should start with border security, and that’s what I’ll do as president.” This stance seems somewhat consistent with the position Cruz took during the 2013 immigration legislative debate when he sponsored a Senate amendment replacing a pathway to citizenship with a legalization program that fell short of citizenship. The Cruz campaign has since distanced him from this amendment, claiming it was intended to kill the legislation. Immigrant advocates blasted Cruz’s recent shift, recalling how Romney infamously tumbled in the polls among Latino voters after his self-deportation remarks. “With his recent shift to the right, the policy stances of Ted Cruz do not differ significantly from those of Donald Trump,” Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration reform group in Washington D.C., said in a statement. “This may turn out to be smart tactics in this year’s Republican primary. However, in a general election the fact that Cruz is to the right of where Romney was four years ago is likely to be as successful as it was four years ago.”

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Cruz consolidates support from key Christian conservatives

Conservative Christian activists whose support has been hotly pursued by Republican presidential candidates have begun to quietly coalesce around Sen. Ted Cruz — a major boost for his efforts to present himself as the leading challenger to front-runner Donald Trump.

Members of this core GOP constituency have long been torn between several favorites in the party’s crowded field. But many organization leaders have decided in recent days to line up behind Cruz (Tex.) because they consider him the best-funded and most electable social conservative in the race, according to several participants in the discussions.

He won the backing of a key evangelical coalition after a secret Dec. 7 meeting in which top national activists agreed to roll out a stream of endorsements, many timed for maximum impact between now and Super Tuesday on March 1, when a dozen states will hold primaries or caucuses. Eight of those states have significant evangelical populations, and Cruz is targeting them in hopes of emerging March 2 with the highest delegate totals of any candidate.

Since the Dec. 7 meeting, endorsements have been announced by influential figures such as James Dobson, a radio host who founded Focus on the Family; Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage; and Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Iowa Family Leader organization.

The next gathering will take place a few days after Christmas at a remote ranch in central Texas, where Cruz, his wife and several key financial backers will visit with some of the country’s most prominent evangelical leaders for private conversations and a public rally.

Some of the 100 or so leaders flying to the ranch, owned by conservative billionaire Farris Wilks, are still considering other candidates, including Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who also is maneuvering to be the Trump alternative. But in recent weeks, Cruz has outpaced his rivals in the race to line up the support of religious conservatives.

Although Rubio has stepped up his courtship, activists say he is being hindered by a relatively late start. He has been warmly received but also has encountered some skepticism — he was questioned at a meeting with Iowa pastors last month about his campaign’s reliance on money from New York financier Paul Singer, a major GOP donor who supports causes including same-sex marriage.

Trump performs well in national polls among self-described evangelical voters, but many top activists and group leaders consider the real estate magnate insufficiently committed to opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

Other evangelical favorites, such as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), remain beloved but are considered unable to defeat Trump.

In Iowa, where social conservatives are expected to hold sway Feb. 1 in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Cruz has another scheduling advantage. A few days before the voting, he will be the sole candidate to appear before more than 100 Iowa clerics attending a pastors event in Des Moines.

“Ted Cruz made a significant investment in a ground game that looks to pastors to register and mobilize the pews,” said David Lane, an activist who is organizing the January meeting in Iowa and arranged for several GOP contenders to meet previously with clergy members. “Neither Trump nor Carson nor Rubio have done that.”

Polls have shown Cruz surging in Iowa as a result, in part, of his rising support among evangelicals. A Monmouth University survey in Iowa showed him winning 30 percent of those voters, compared with 18 percent for Trump and 16 percent for Rubio.

A significant moment in the battle for evangelical support came during the Dec. 7 meeting of evangelical leaders that preceded the string of endorsements. Huddling in a hotel in suburban Washington, the group held an extended debate about whether to support Cruz or Rubio and in the end voted for the Texan, participants said.

Participants said the effort was organized in part by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who has long urged Christian conservatives to pick a consensus presidential candidate early in the nomination process. The idea of an early endorsement has been discussed for several recent election cycles, but pressure has increased this time following frustration among Christian conservatives with the nominations of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008 and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in 2012.
Perkins, who has not publicly endorsed a candidate, declined to discuss the matter, as did several others who attended. The meeting was first reported by the National Review.

About 50 conservative leaders had met periodically since 2014, referring to themselves simply as “the Group.” Early on, participants settled on three criteria for backing a candidate: electability, reliability in support of positions important to social conservatives, and having the financial and organizational capability to be competitive in as many as 30 states.

Dobson, one of the most influential social-conservative voices nationally, last week issued a statement distributed by the Cruz campaign saying he had met with the candidate multiple times. Dobson said that he and his wife, Shirley, had “been praying for a leader such as this” and that they asked “conservatives and people of faith to join us in supporting his race for the presidency.”

Dobson is expected to join 100 other faith leaders at the meeting on Dec. 28 and 29 at the ranch in tiny Cisco, Tex., where Cruz and the other guests are expected to discuss campaign strategy, policy ideas and religious philosophy. The meeting will include clerics from some of the country’s largest churches, including African American and Hispanic congregations that make up an increasingly large share of the evangelical movement.

Among those invited to attend are Bishop Harry Jackson, the conservative black pastor of the 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and Samuel Rodriguez, a California-based pastor who leads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Jackson declined to discuss his involvement with the broader coalition of evangelical leaders. He confirmed his plans to attend the Cisco gathering, although he has not committed to any candidate.

In an interview last week, Rod­riguez said he was not sold on backing Cruz, whom he said he knows and admires. He said that the senator was doing well among white evangelicals but that his recent tough talk on immigration, in which he voiced strong opposition to a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, “carries the potential to alienate Latino voters.”
Rodriguez said many Latino evangelicals appear to be leaning toward Rubio, who, like Cruz, is Cuban American but who has said he supports an eventual legalization for undocumented immigrants.

Mike Gonzalez, the executive director of the South Carolina Pastors Alliance and another Hispanic pastor planning to attend the meeting in Texas, has a different view. Cruz will connect with Latino voters, Gonzalez said, noting that many share the senator’s position on enforcing immigration rules.

“I believe in the rule of law, as does Ted Cruz,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he plans to bring five South Carolina pastors to the event with him, two of whom have endorsed Cruz.

“I hope we’ll have additional endorsements by the time we leave,” he said.

The gathering in Texas will include a private fundraiser attended by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who have underwritten one of three super PACs backing Cruz. The Wilkses have funded conservative causes using the fortune they made from several energy and real estate companies they founded in Cisco, population 3,800.

Although much of the two-day gathering will be private, it will end with a public rally that will include a speech by Cruz and music by the Newsboys, a popular Christian rock band.

David Barton, an organizer of the event who leads one of the super PACs backing Cruz, said he would not be surprised if more than 1,000 people attend the rally and concert, in addition to those who will be at the invitation-only meeting at the Wilkses’ ranch.

“We were blown away by the RSVPs,” said Barton, a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party who has written books about the Christian heritage of the United States and encourages church leaders to engage in politics.

Cruz’s January meeting with Iowa pastors will be the final pre-caucus gathering of the state’s Pastors and Pews organization. The effort is part of the American Renewal Project, which seeks to be an “honest broker” for the faith community in evaluating candidates, said Lane, the group’s founder.
Rubio received an enthusiastic response when he met with the Iowa pastors group Nov. 24 and answered questions about his faith and his connections to Singer, the donor known for his support of same-sex marriage.

“When someone cooperates with my campaign, they are buying into my agenda. I am not buying into their agenda,” Rubio said, according to a video recording by the Christian Broadcasting Network. The candidate said he is allied with Singer on national security issues and support for Israel but has never discussed marriage.

His answers drew an enthusiastic reaction, and Lane said the group was impressed by his comments on faith. But Lane questioned why Rubio “waited until 60 days before the caucuses” to reach out to Iowa pastors. Cruz, he said, has been working with the organization for more than a year.

Katie Zezima contributed to this report.

Original article can be read here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cruz-consolidates-support-from-key-christian-conservatives/2015/12/20/d7951a76-a5b6-11e5-b53d-972e2751f433_story.html

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Ted Cruz consolidates support from key Christian conservatives

Christian conservative activists whose support has been hotly pursued by Republican presidential candidates have begun to quietly coalesce around Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – a major boost for his efforts to present himself as the leading challenger to front-runner Donald Trump.

Members of this core GOP constituency have long been torn between several favorites in the party’s crowded field. But many organization leaders have decided in recent days to line up behind Cruz because they consider him the best-funded and most electable social conservative in the race, according to several participants in the discussions.

He won the backing of a key evangelical coalition after a secret Dec. 7 meeting in which top national activists agreed to roll out a stream of endorsements, many timed for maximum impact between now and March 1, Super Tuesday, when a dozen states will hold primaries or caucuses. Eight of those states have significant evangelical populations, and Cruz is targeting them in hopes of emerging March 2 with the highest delegate totals of any candidate.

Since the Dec. 7 meeting, endorsements have been announced by influential figures such as James Dobson, a radio host who founded Focus on the Family; Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage; and Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Iowa Family Leader organization.

The next gathering will take place a few days after Christmas at a remote ranch in central Texas, where Cruz, his wife and several key financial backers will visit with some of the country’s most prominent evangelical leaders for private conversations and a public rally.

Some of the 100 or so leaders flying to the ranch owned by conservative billionaire Farris Wilks are still considering other candidates, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who also is maneuvering to be the Trump alternative. But in recent weeks, Cruz has outpaced his rivals in the race to line up religious conservative support.

Although Rubio has stepped up his courtship, activists say he is being hindered by a relatively late start. He has been warmly received but also has encountered some skepticism – questioned at a meeting with Iowa pastors last month about his campaign’s reliance on money from New York financier Paul Singer, a major GOP donor who supports same-sex marriage, among other causes.

Trump performs well in national polls among self-described evangelical voters, but many top activists and group leaders consider the real estate magnate insufficiently committed to opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

Other evangelical favorites, such as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, remain beloved but are considered unable to defeat Trump.

In Iowa, where social conservatives are expected to hold sway Feb. 1 in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Cruz has another scheduling advantage. A few days before the voting, he will be the sole candidate to appear before more than 100 Iowa clerics attending a pastors event in Des Moines.

“Ted Cruz made a significant investment in a ground game that looks to pastors to register and mobilize the pews,” said David Lane, an activist who is organizing the January meeting in Iowa and arranged for several GOP contenders to meet previously with clergy members. “Neither Trump nor Carson nor Rubio have done that.”

Polls have shown Cruz surging in Iowa as a result, in part, of his rising support among evangelicals. A Monmouth University survey in Iowa showed him winning 30 percent of those voters, compared with 18 percent for Trump and 16 percent for Rubio.

A significant moment in the battle for evangelical support came during the Dec. 7 meeting of evangelical leaders that preceded the string of endorsements. Huddling in a hotel in suburban Washington, the group held an extended debate about whether to support Cruz or Rubio, and in the end voted for the Texan, participants said.

Participants said the effort was organized in part by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who has long urged Christian conservatives to pick a consensus presidential candidate early in the nomination process. The idea of an early endorsement has been discussed for several recent election cycles, but pressure has increased this time following frustration among Christian conservatives with the nominations of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

Perkins, who has not publicly endorsed a candidate, declined to discuss the matter, as did several others who attended. The meeting was first reported by the National Review.

About 50 conservative leaders had met periodically since 2014, referring to themselves simply as “The Group.” Early on, participants settled on three criteria for backing a candidate: electability, reliability in support of positions important to social conservatives, and having the financial and organizational capability to be competitive in as many as 30 states.

Last week, Dobson, one of the most influential social conservative voices nationally, issued a statement distributed by the Cruz campaign saying he had met with the candidate multiple times. Dobson said that he and his wife, Shirley, had “been praying for a leader such as this” and that they asked “conservatives and people of faith to join us in supporting his race for the presidency.”

Dobson is expected to join 100 other faith leaders at the meeting on Dec. 28 and 29 at the ranch in tiny Cisco, Texas, where Cruz and the other guests are expected discuss campaign strategy, policy ideas and religious philosophy. The meeting will include clerics from some of the country’s largest churches, including African American and Hispanic congregations that make up an increasingly large share of the evangelical movement.

Among those invited to attend are Bishop Harry Jackson, the conservative black pastor of the 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and Samuel Rodriguez, a California-based pastor who leads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Jackson declined to discuss his involvement with the broader coalition of evangelical leaders. He confirmed his plans to attend the Cisco gathering, although he has not committed to any candidate.

In an interview last week, Rodriguez said he was not sold on backing Cruz, whom he knows and admires. He said the senator was doing well among white evangelicals, but that his recent tough talk on immigration, in which he voiced strong opposition to a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, “carries the potential to alienate Latino voters.”

Rodriguez said many Latino evangelicals appear to be leaning toward Rubio, who, like Cruz, is Cuban American, but who has said he supports an eventual legalization for undocumented immigrants.

Mike Gonzalez, the executive director of the South Carolina Pastors Association, is another Hispanic pastor planning to attend the meeting in Texas and has a different view. Cruz will connect with Latino voters, he said, noting that many share the senator’s position on enforcing immigration rules.

“I believe in the rule of law, as does Ted Cruz,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he plans to bring five South Carolina pastors to the event with him, two of whom have endorsed Cruz.

“I hope we’ll have additional endorsements by the time we leave,” he said.

The gathering in Texas will include a private fundraiser attended by Farris and Dan Wilks, who have underwritten one of three super PACs backing Cruz. The Wilkses have funded conservative causes using the fortune they made from several energy and real estate companies they founded in Cisco, population 3,800.

Although much of the two-day gathering will be private, it will end with a public rally that will include a speech by Cruz and music by the News Boys, a popular Christian rock band.

David Barton, an organizer of the event who leads one of the super PACs backing Cruz, said he would not be surprised if more than 1,000 people attend the rally and concert, in addition to those who will be at the invitation-only meeting at the Wilkses’ ranch.

“We were blown away by the RSVPs,” said Barton, a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party who has written books about the Christian heritage of the United States and encourages church leaders to engage in politics.

Cruz’s January meeting with Iowa pastors will be the final pre-caucus gathering of the state’s Pastors and Pews organization. The effort is part of the American Renewal Project, which seeks to be an “honest broker” for the faith community in evaluating candidates, said Lane, the group’s founder.

Rubio received an enthusiastic response when he met with the Iowa pastors group Nov. 24 and answered questions about his faith and his connections to Singer, the donor known for his support of same-sex marriage.

“When someone cooperates with my campaign, they are buying in to my agenda. I am not buying in to their agenda,” Rubio said, according to a video recording by the Christian Broadcasting Network. The candidate said he is allied with Singer on national security issues and support for Israel but has never discussed marriage.

His answers drew an enthusiastic reaction, and Lane said the group was impressed by his comments on faith. But Lane questioned why Rubio “waited until 60 days before the caucuses” to reach out to Iowa pastors. Cruz, he said, has been working with the organization for more than a year.

Katie Zezima contributed to this report.

Original article can be read here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-ted-cruz-christian-conservatives-20151221-story.html

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Cruz to Meet With Evangelical Leaders in West Texas Read more: The Gilmer Mirror – Cruz to Meet With Evangelical Leaders in West Texas

Ted Cruzis convening hundreds of evangelical leaders in West Texas as he seeks to consolidate support from the influential voting bloc with one month to go until the presidential nominating contests begin.

The Republican candidate is set to privately meet with roughly 300 pastors and faith leaders Monday in Cisco, a tiny city about two hours west of Dallas, at a ranch owned by Dan and Farris Wilks, billionaire brothers who rank as two of the biggest donors to Cruz’s presidential effort.

The Texas senator spoke briefly about the summit while campaigning Tuesday in Arkansas, calling it another opportunity to unite conservatives — “our strategy from day one.”

“We are meeting with a great many evangelical leaders from across the country,” Cruz told reporters before a rally in North Little Rock. “We’ll be meeting with them in West Texas, having a chance just for some fellowship, to visit back and forth.”

“Some of them are supporting us already,” Cruz added. “Others we’re hoping will be supporting us, and we’ll have a frank and candid conversation.”

The meeting is being organized at least in part by Keep the Promise PAC, one of four main super PACs supporting Cruz. Keep the Promise PAC is headed by David Barton, an influential Christian activist and author who formerly served as the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.

Laura Barnett, a spokeswoman for Keep the Promise PAC, said the meeting is “designed as an open dialogue with Sen. Cruz and an opportunity to listen to and learn from one another.” A guest list was unavailable Saturday, but Barnett said the number of RSVPs far exceeded organizers’ expectations and those attending “represent a diverse cross-section of the faith community.”

Throughout December, Cruz’s campaign steadily racked up endorsements from a number of prominent conservative figures, many of them with sway in the evangelical community. They have included U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa; Bob Vander Plaats, president of The Family Leader and James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

While the Cisco gathering is expected to include some of the endorsers, it will also serve as an introduction to Cruz for many of the participants, Barton said. “For many, many of these guys, this will their first contact” with Cruz, Barton added.

As they have thrown their support behind Cruz, conservative leaders have urged like-minded activists to follow their lead, hoping to avoid previous elections in which their support was diluted among a number of candidates. As recently as two months ago, Barton said, evangelical support was split among five or six candidates, but now it is “coalescing very rapidly” around Cruz — with plenty of room to grow.

“We still find there are many, many folks who still do not know he is a man of faith or his faith story,” Barton said. “As that gets out, I expect there’ll be even more consolidation.”

Among those attending the Cisco summit who are not yet sold on Cruz will be Samuel Rodriguez, a California-based pastor who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Rodriguez said he wants to hear more from Cruz about how he plans to broaden his support in the evangelical community to Latinos and African Americans. 

“Engaging white evangelicals is nice and it’s wonderful, but it doesn’t get you across the goal line. It doesn’t,” Rodriguez said. “Ask Mitt Romney and ask John McCain. White evangelical support for the GOP does not equal occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Rodriguez suggested Cruz has made that task even harder with hisrecent clarificationthat he does not support legalization for the estimated 12 million people in the country illegally. As a result of that “immigration pivot,” Rodriguez said, he is personally heading to Cisco with a “significant amount of angst.”

The meeting also will take Cruz into the backyard of the Wilks brothers, who have given $15 million to a super PAC backing Cruz, the largest known single-family donation in support of a presidential candidate so far this election cycle.  The brothers, who made their fortunes in the fracking boom, are said to be driven to politics by their socially conservative views.

“Family is what creates a strong nation, a strong community and without that, you know, I don’t think we’ll continue as a nation very long,” Farris Wilks said in arare interviewthat aired last month on KTXS, the ABC affiliate in Abilene. Of Cruz, Farris Wilks said the senator is “not afraid to stand against some of his own party even and say things that need to be said.”

Cruz’s trip to Cisco will culminate Tuesday evening with a private fundraiser then a public rally, both to be held with the senator’s family at a community center the Wilkses helped build. The fundraiser, which begins at 5 p.m., costs between $500 and $2,700 to attend. The rally is set to start two hours later, following a concert by the Newsboys, a Christian rock band.

“We are thrilled for Texas son Sen. Cruz to spend time in the Big Country,” Barton said in a news release announcing the Cisco events earlier this month. “Voters here understand and appreciate Sen. Cruz’s hard-working, constitutionally conservative values.”
Read more:The Gilmer Mirror – Cruz to Meet With Evangelical Leaders in West Texas

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