7 Things to Know About Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

1. Sen. Ted Cruz was born on Dec. 22, 1970 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada to a Cuban father and an American mother. When questions arose about his eligibility to run for president, Cruz released his birth certificate. From the article in The Dallas Morning News:

Dated a month after his birth on Dec. 22, 1970, it shows that Rafael Edward Cruz was born to Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, a “geophysical consultant” born in Matanzas, Cuba, and the former Eleanor Elizabeth Wilson, born in Wilmington, Del.

Her status made the baby a U.S. citizen at birth. For that, U.S. law required at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen who had lived for at least a decade in the United States.

She registered his birth with the U.S. consulate, Frazier said, and the future senator received a U.S. passport in 1986 ahead of a high school trip to England.

2. His father was imprisoned as part of Fidel Castro’s movement to overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s. From a 2006 profile of then-Texas solicitor general Cruz by the Austin American-Statesman:

Cruz's father rarely spoke of his sacrifice. Cruz learned of it in bits and pieces from his grandparents, aunts and uncles. Rafael Cruz loathed oppression and was willing to die to end it. "He was a guerrilla, throwing Molotov cocktails and blowing up buildings."

Battista's soldiers beat the elder Cruz in prison, and only his own father's bribe freed him in 1957. While earning a degree in mathematics at UT, Cruz spoke to Austin business groups, lauding Castro's revolution. After the victory in 1959, hearing from relatives what Castro was doing, Cruz returned to those same business groups to apologize, Ted Cruz said.

"My father has been my hero my whole life," he said.

3. His education in conservatism came early on. His teacher from an after-school education program picked him to be part of a traveling show about the Constitution. From The Weekly Standard:

Story chose four or five of his best students, led by Cruz, to join a traveling troupe called the Constitutional Corroborators. He hired a mnemonic specialist to teach them how to memorize the text of the Constitution up through the Bill of Rights. (Who wants to memorize the Eleventh Amendment?) Armed with an easel and felt pens, with Mrs. Moore or another parent at the wheel, the corroborators drove throughout Texas and occasionally beyond to breakfasts, lunches, or dinners held by the Rotary Club or Kiwanis or the VFW or any other civic group with an open slot for speakers. While the audience sawed away at the Chicken a la King, the corroborators wrote out various articles of the Constitution word for word. When the meal was over they’d take questions.

“The people just loved them,” Mrs. Moore says. “They knew so much, people couldn’t believe it! And you had to be a very polished speaker. Ted really worked at it. He’d practice at home in front of the mirror to get everything just right.” 

4. He was a champion debater during his undergraduate years at Princeton. But after one particular round, Cruz and his partner faced off against the other team in a different competition. From Slate:

Cruz competed against and lost to former White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee in the American Parliamentary Debate Association's 1991 Team of the Year* contest. (Cruz went on to win in 1992.) Goolsbee's debate partner, David Gray, recalled that after beating Cruz and his partner, David Panton, one team challenged the other to a pickup basketball game. As Gray remembers it, Goolsbee was matched up to guard Cruz, and proceeded to trash-talk Cruz up and down the court.

"Austan can be very, very funny. He kept challenging Ted to shoot the ball from outlandishly long places—'I bet you $20 you can't make a shot from right here,' " Gray said. "Austan would bait Ted to shoot, shoot, shoot, and it was not a good result for him. ... Ted couldn’t help himself from taking the shots." Princeton lost the game.

5. Cruz keeps a reminder in his Senate office of the first time he argued in front of the Supreme Court. From a GQ profile by Jason Zengerle:

But all along, what kept drawing my eye was a giant oil painting above the couch depicting Cruz as he delivered the first of his nine oral arguments before the Supreme Court. "I was 32 years old," he recalled. "It was abundantly clear we didn't have a prayer.... And I've always enjoyed the fact that as I'm sitting at my desk, I'm looking at a giant painting of me getting my rear end whipped 9-0." He gazed at the wall. It is an unusual painting: From the artist's vantage point, we see three other courtroom artists, each also drawing Cruz—so the painting actually features not one but four images of young Cruz before the bench. "It is helpful," he explained to me, "for keeping one grounded."

6. Cruz met a future Senate counterpart during a 2010 meeting of the Federalist Society in Washington. From the GQ article

He'd been out of government for two years and was looking for a way back in, this time via election. The only real opening in Texas, though, was a U.S. Senate seat—an impossible reach for Cruz, who'd never even held elected office. 

But at the meeting, he met someone who had pulled off that exact feat: Utah senator-elect Mike Lee. Like Cruz, Lee had been a creature of the conservative legal movement, having clerked for Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court. Like Cruz, he had left Washington to become a government lawyer back home. And like Cruz, he had never before run for office. But he rode the Tea Party wave of 2010 into the Senate, ousting an incumbent Republican by running to his right. After the Federalist Society meeting, Lee and Cruz took a long walk around the Capitol. "We talked about every conceivable political and constitutional issue," Lee recalls. "I concluded we were kindred spirits." 

7. Cruz typically likes to wear a pair of cowboy boots he calls his “argument boots.” But he ditched them for his 21-hour speech on the Senate floor this week. From the Star-Telegram:

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., reminded him during the first hours of Cruz' crusade on the Senate floor against Obamacare to wear comfortable shoes.

Cruz said he remembered that Paul had touted comfortable shoes after the Kentucky senator's filibuster against drone use in the U.S. earlier this year.

"I will embarrassingly admit that I took the coward's way," said Cruz. The Texan wore black tennis shoes instead.