Not too long ago, Ted Cruz carefully guarded against any talk that he might collaborate with Democrats. Consider the time, in December 2022, when Texas’s junior senator traveled to Georgia to campaign for Herschel Walker, the Republican senatorial candidate, in a runoff that would ultimately firm up Democrats’ control of the upper chamber. Walker’s opponent, Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, released an ad touting his partnership with Cruz on an amendment to the omnibus infrastructure bill that expanded Interstate 14, to show voters, in a state that had voted deep red for decades, his ability to work across the aisle. Cruz, who ultimately voted against the bill, fired back at Warnock on the Texan’s podcast, accusing the Georgian politician of trying to distract voters from Warnock’s radical record: “It says something that a guy who votes consistently on the extreme left of the Senate, he’s not bragging about that,” Cruz said. “He’s bragging about ‘I worked with Cruz.’ ”

So it was somewhat surprising, last week, when Cruz cited his work with Warnock on a phone call with Texas Monthly as evidence that he is the most bipartisan option in his Senate race against Democrat Colin Allred, of Dallas. How times change! There might not be as much on the line in this race in terms of Senate control, but Allred has raised nearly $30 million as statewide and national Democrats eagerly seeks to unseat Cruz, sensing weakness after his 2018 race against Beto O’Rourke, which he won by only 2.6 percentage points. To the amusement of many of his colleagues, Cruz has, during his current campaign, pitched himself to Democrats and moderates. During a phone call last Thursday, Cruz laid out his record for me—including his work across the aisle on various space and NASA bills and on a law expanding Purple Heart eligibility to soldiers killed or wounded in an attack by a foreign terrorist organization—to make his case to Texas voters. 

During a 38-minute conversation, we discussed some of the most pressing and polarizing questions of his campaign. I later annotated his replies with fuller context and clarification.  

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Texas Monthly: Many politicians revered by GOP primary voters—President Donald Trump, Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and agriculture commissioner Sid Miller—have opposed House Speaker Dade Phelan in his reelection bid and have rallied behind his runoff opponent, East Texas oil-and-gas consultant David Covey. One of the main reasons they’re backing Covey is that Phelan and his lieutenants led the impeachment investigation into Paxton last year. You’ve gotten involved in many state House races, but you notably have not endorsed either candidate in this race. Why not? 

Ted Cruz: I’ve made clear for several election cycles now that my endorsements in state House and state Senate races will focus very directly on school choice. I believe school choice is the civil rights issue of the twenty-first century. For the last several [legislative] cycles, what I do is, my team compiles a spreadsheet of every vote that every state representative and every state senator has taken on school choice. If you support school choice and are otherwise relatively conservative, you’re quite likely to get my support. On the other hand, if you’ve voted against school choice, and if you have a serious and credible primary opponent, the chances are high that I will support your primary opponent.

[Phelan has not taken a position on a voucher program to let parents use taxpayer dollars to send their kids to private schools, but efforts to pass such a law repeatedly failed in his chamber last year. Covey has suggested that he supports a voucher bill and will vote in favor of it if elected to the Texas House.]

To the best of my knowledge, I am the only U.S. senator who regularly makes primary endorsements in their own state. Of the one hundred senators, ninety-nine of them stay out of those races because anytime you make an endorsement in a primary in your own state, it hurts you politically. The old rule of thumb is that you gain half of their friends and all of their enemies. 

TM: To be clear, in this race between Phelan and Covey, do you plan on making an endorsement? 

TC: I have stayed out of this race because it did not fit the criteria for the races that I was getting involved in. And, as I said, that has been exclusively focused on school choice. 

TM: Trump has suggested he may not accept the results of the next election. Specifically, he said, “If everything’s honest, I’ll gladly accept the results. I don’t change on that. If it’s not, you have to fight for the right of the country.” Are you prepared to say now that you’ll accept the results of this year’s presidential race? Or do you agree with Trump, whom you’ve endorsed for president?

TC: I will say, media “gotcha” games are always fun, and this particular iteration is particularly comical. The national media has decided they want to ask every Republican whether we’ll swear to embrace the election results—no matter what happens, no matter how much fraud occurs. What’s amusing, though, is reporters are not asking Democrats that. 

If you look at the elections we’ve had for the past twenty years, Democrats have repeatedly challenged election results and have alleged fraud. They did so in 2000. Democrats then went to the floor and alleged that the election of George W. Bush was fraudulent. And they did so in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected. Democrats then went to the floor of the U.S. House and alleged that [the election] was fraudulent. And, yet, the media doesn’t cover any of that. Hillary Clinton has claimed repeatedly that Donald Trump was illegitimately elected, but the media has decided it’s a “gotcha” to hold Republicans and Democrats to a different standard. 

[In 2001, a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus made a futile effort to block the counting of Florida’s 25 electoral votes, arguing that Black voters in the state had been disenfranchised. In 2017, some House Democrats attempted to challenge Trump’s electoral college win. Their objections went nowhere because they were unable to gain any support in the Senate. In 2019, three years after her loss, Clinton said that Trump “knows he’s an illegitimate president,” a claim she repeated in 2020. She has suggested that Trump’s 2016 win was fishy, citing Russia’s meddling and voter-suppression laws passed by Republican-led states. But Democrats, unlike Republicans in 2020, never contended that there was widespread vote-counting fraud that flipped the election, nor did Democratic voters storm the Capitol. All of this was extensively reported by major news organizations.]

What I will say, unequivocally, is that we’ll have an election and we will have a peaceful transfer of power, which is what has occurred in every election since our nation was formed. On January 20, 2021, a new president was inaugurated. And I believe on January 20, 2025, again a new president is going to be inaugurated. If there is voter fraud, of course candidates are going to challenge that fraud. We have an entire legal system designed to challenge voter fraud, and the premise of the question is quite ridiculous because unstated is, “Even if there’s massive fraud, will you pledge to ignore the fraud and just be happy with [the result]?” Well, that would be a terrible thing to commit to. There is a reason that we have laws in place to challenge voter fraud, and, of course, we all have an obligation to do everything we can to protect the integrity of the election. 

TM: It seems so easy to say an election wasn’t honest without offering proof. Is it a candidate’s responsibility to accept the result or else offer hard proof of fraud? 

TC: Well, if it is a candidate’s responsibility to accept the results without proof, the media certainly hasn’t asked Clinton to do so. She still maintains to this day that Trump’s election in 2016 was illegitimate. The media didn’t ask Stacey Abrams of Georgia to do so. She still maintains that she beat Brian Kemp in the [2018] gubernatorial election and that she is the duly elected governor of Georgia, notwithstanding the reported results. And so, once again, it’s a double standard that’s kind of silly. 

[Abrams refused to concede in her 2018 race against Kemp, but she did acknowledge her loss days after the election. She attributed her defeat, however, to efforts by Kemp, who was then Georgia’s secretary of state, to suppress voter turnout. Kemp has denied these allegations, and Abrams vociferously rejects the comparison to Trump’s stolen-election rhetoric. All of this was extensively covered by major news organizations.]

I’ll point out my view, too, which is that the right step for us to have taken in 2020 was to appoint an election commission to review the actual evidence and to assess the extent to which voter fraud occurred and may have affected the outcome. I had ten [then current and incoming] senators who joined me and issued a joint statement calling for the appointment of an election commission to review the evidence of voter fraud. One of the challenges we have right now is a significant percentage of the population has very real distrust about the integrity of our elections, in part because Democrats and the media have no interest in examining the evidence of fraud. I think it would have been far better for confidence in our electoral system to have a fair commission that reviewed the actual evidence and made a determination on the merits. 

[The Associated Press reviewed every potential case of voter fraud in six battleground states whose results Trump disputed—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—and found fewer than 475 possibly fraudulent ballots. In no state would the alleged cases of fraud have been necessary to secure Biden’s victory. In addition, the courts have dismissed more than fifty lawsuits brought forth by Trump and his allies alleging fraud in the 2020 election. Repudiating Trump, U.S. officials have called the November 3, 2020, election “the most secure in American history.”] 

TM: I have a few questions about your podcast, which has been in the headlines the last couple of weeks. IHeartMedia, which produces your podcast, Verdict with Ted Cruz, sent $630,000 to the Truth and Courage PAC, a group dedicated to your reelection effort. As you know, super PACs are legally barred from coordinating strategy with candidates. Some groups have raised questions with the Federal Election Commission about whether you improperly directed iHeartMedia to make payments to Truth and Courage. Is there any validity to those claims? Were you involved in any way in those payments being made?

TC: Well, let’s start with the part of your question where you said “some groups” have made claims. The groups that have made claims are two different organizations that are Democrat attack machines. They exist every election cycle to file election complaints against Republicans. That’s what they do. Their left-wing donors fund them so they can produce attack pieces targeting Republicans. 

[The groups that Cruz is referring to, the Campaign Legal Center and End Citizens United, both focus on campaign finance reform. The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee in 2022, shortly after Cruz entered into the deal with iHeart, asking Congress to investigate whether the deal violated ethics rules surrounding gifts. The committee ruled that it did not.]

I will point out these groups [the Campaign Legal Center] filed complaints challenging the podcast [in 2022]. They filed complaints, and the complaints were thrown out as being meritless. They filed a complaint at the Senate Ethics Committee in 2022, and the committee concluded—rightly, I believe—that our conduct was entirely consistent with federal law. And so they’re doing it again. And it’s not coincidental that they’re filing this next set of complaints six months before Election Day. Their entire purpose is to raise spurious claims before elections. I also find it ironic that Democrats and the media are so worked up that I have a successful podcast. The podcast, Verdict with Ted Cruz, I do three days a week. The reason that I do the podcast is in significant part because the corporate media has gotten so biased and so political that they rarely report the news, and instead engage in left-wing political advocacy. The reason that roughly one million people listen to my podcast regularly is because I am doing my best to explain the actual issues. Many of the facts I cover, you can’t get through watching CNN, because CNN and ABC and NBC and CBS have gotten so politicized that they won’t cover basic facts. So, I’m very proud of that podcast. I think it is really important to carrying out my responsibilities as a senator. 

TM: I’m curious, though, if you could speak to whether there is any validity to those claims I mentioned earlier. Were you involved in any way in those payments from iHeartMedia being made to Truth and Courage?

TC: You would have to talk to the super PAC or to iHeart. That is a negotiation between the two of them, and I was not involved in that. 

TM: Presidential election cycles bring out a lot of people who don’t vote often and don’t pay close attention to politics. This is the first time you’ve run for reelection during a presidential cycle since 2012. A lot of these voters know you mostly for one thing: Cancún. Speak to these voters. Why were you trying to get out of Texas during its most acute crisis in decades? 

TC: Well, you’re, once again, illustrating why so many people listen to the podcast, because the media has an ideological ax to grind. The notion that what people know about [me] is that I took my family to the beach is, on its face, laughable. Particularly given that Biden, during his three and a half years as president, has been to the beaches in Delaware hundreds of times. But the media does not seem at all concerned about that as war wages across the globe, as Hamas terrorists are attacking Israel, or as the state of Hawaii is burning. Biden, it seems, week after week after week, can be found sitting on the beach in Delaware under a big umbrella, and the media does a collective yawn.

[It’s not clear whether Biden was at these beaches “hundreds” of times, as Cruz says, but, in fact, news outlets have published many stories about Biden’s various trips to his Delaware beach house.]

Were there a bunch of stories written about Cancún? Sure. But that’s because the media was very eager to run attack stories. That’s fine. I understand, sadly, the toxic media environment we live in. But this campaign is going to be focused on issues, substance, and record. 

TM: You’ve positioned yourself as the most bipartisan option in this race. But in the last few years, you’ve been a vociferous culture warrior, attacking Big Bird, Bud Light, et cetera. How do you square that?

TC: Since the day I was first elected to the Senate twelve years ago, my job has been to fight for thirty million Texans. That entails multiple aspects of the job. One part of the job is leading the fight against bad policies that would hurt Texas, and that was true whether those policies came from Barack Obama or [Senate majority leader] Chuck Schumer or Joe Biden [who are all Democrats]. And I’ve been proud to lead the fight against every disastrous policy that the radical left has tried to impose on the state of Texas. I’ve been proud to lead the fight against Democrats’ open-border policies. I’ve been proud to lead the fight against trillions of dollars of wasteful spending that is driving inflation. I’ve been proud to lead the fight against Biden and the Democrats’ relentless assault on Texas oil and gas and Texas energy, which is hurting jobs throughout the state. 

However, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. In my twelve years in the Senate, I have authored and passed into law ninety-nine different pieces of legislation which have been, collectively, enormously impactful on the state. Many in the media have taken to writing recently that Cruz has “suddenly” become a bipartisan legislator. Well, there’s nothing sudden about it. I have been doing that since the day I arrived in the Senate. 

I’ll give you a few examples. When I was brand-new in the Senate, one of the first legislative victories I had concerned Fort Hood, Texas, where [ex–Army major] Nidal Hasan had murdered thirteen innocent souls. The Obama administration inexplicably refused to award the Purple Heart to those shot by Hasan because the Obama administration deemed what happened to be “workplace violence” rather than what it indisputably was—which was terrorism. I was serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I introduced legislation to mandate that they award the Purple Heart to those shot by Hasan. I earned the support of both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. We passed that legislation into law. And I was there at Fort Hood when those Purple Hearts were awarded. 

I’ve also led the effort drafting, and passing into law, virtually every major piece of space legislation that has been enacted in the past ten years. That includes the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, that I drafted along with Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, which Obama signed into law. That includes the NASA [Transition] Authorization Act of 2017, which was bipartisan legislation that I drafted that Donald Trump signed into law. There are very few members of Congress that have major legislation—one signed by Trump and one by Obama—that impacts a significant policy area. 

Allred is fond of describing himself as the most bipartisan member of the Texas delegation. He says that repeatedly. And the media all dutifully repeats this. Facts be damned. His first four years in the House, his voting record was one hundred percent with Nancy Pelosi. I don’t know how on earth you can claim Nancy Pelosi is bipartisan. His record has not been bipartisan; it has been hard, hard left. 

[FiveThirtyEight keeps an updated tally of how often each member of Congress votes with or against the current president. Allred votes in line with Biden’s positions 100 percent of the time, as does Pelosi. When Trump was president, Cruz voted in line with him between 92 and 100 percent of the time, depending on the year.]