NEW YORK — Ted Cruz first uttered “New York values” with a sneer in January during an interview with a radio station in Boston — a place where animus for New York, at least in the world of sports, runs deep.
Cruz repeated it again, and again, and again, characterizing “New York values” as too socially liberal and focused on money. It was a way to knock Queens-born businessman Donald Trump in front of people who lived far from Manhattan.
But now, with the delegate-rich New York primary looming, Cruz must campaign in the Empire State — a place known for its bare-knuckles approach to all things political, a propensity to hit back when slighted, and residents who speak up when they disagree.
“Take the F U train, Ted,” blared the cover of the New York Daily News on Thursday, the day after Cruz was greeted by hecklers at a campaign stop in the Bronx. Cruz was swarmed by media as he walked into a Dominican-
Chinese restaurant, where he met with local and faith leaders. Two men were dragged out by police after they disrupted the gathering.
“Ted Cruz has no business being in the Bronx. This is an immigrant community,” one of the men, who wore a Yankees hat, said in English. He then approached cameras and said in Spanish about Cruz, a Cuban American: “He’s a racist who represents the white supremacy. We’re not going to allow that in our neighborhood.”
Cruz was scheduled to visit a charter school but switched to the restaurant at the last minute; the Daily News reported that students threatened a walkout if he showed up. School and campaign officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Despite the reception, Cruz refused to apologize for his remarks.
“Let’s be clear. The people of New York know exactly what those values are,” Cruz told reporters in the Bronx. “They’re the values of liberal Democratic politicians, like Andrew Cuomo, like Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, like Charlie Rangel, all of whom Donald Trump has supported” financially.
“If you want to know what liberal Democratic values are, follow Donald Trump’s checkbook,” he added.
When asked by CNN whether he regretted using the phrase, Cruz said, “Not remotely.”
But Cruz’s rivals on the campaign trail — and the local officials here who have tangled with him — pounced.
“Do you remember during the debate when he started lecturing me on New York values, like we’re no good?” Trump said during a Wednesday rally on Long Island in front of more than 10,000 people. Trump recalled talking about the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center during a GOP debate in January when Cruz said “New York values” represented support of abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
“We all know people that died. And I’ve got this guy standing over there, looking at me, talking about New York values with scorn, distaste, with hatred, with hatred. So, folks, I think you can forget about him,” Trump said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich — the third candidate in the GOP presidential race — released a TV spot on Friday that plays audio of Cruz talking about New York values over footage of New York City, including the Statue of Liberty and lights shining from the Freedom Tower to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who sharply criticized Cruz’s suggestion that he would bring back a controversial and defunct New York police counterterrorism program that targeted Muslims, also skewered the candidate.
“Ted Cruz insulted the people of New York when it was politically convenient earlier in the primary season,” de Blasio said on CNN. “Ted Cruz thinks he’s smart, but the people of New York City are going to see through him.”
But Cruz soldiers on in New York, because he has to — the Republican race has turned into a hunt for delegates. New York awards them by congressional district, giving Cruz a chance to ferret out wins on friendly terrain. When he talks about New York values, Cruz often cites the more conservative, rural part of the state and how politicians banned fracking, which Cruz said took away thousands of good-paying jobs from the region.
Cruz has also aggressively courted the Orthodox Jewish community throughout his campaign and visited Brighton Beach in Brooklyn on Thursday, where he made matzoh with 3- and 4-year-olds surrounded by adults.
As he lifted the dough from the matzoh he made toward an oven, Cruz started talking about Passover, which begins April 22.
“Next year in Jerusalem,” said Cruz, a Southern Baptist, using the phrase that comes at the conclusion of a Seder.
He was told that because Passover had not yet come, the appropriate phrase would be “this year in Jerusalem.”
“Well, next year in Jerusalem,” he said, “hopefully I’ll need a bigger plane to get there.”
Cruz also got a warm reception Thursday at a rally held at a Christian school in the upstate town of Scotia, about 20 miles northwest of Albany. A few hundred people cheered for Cruz, who was presented with a gift basket that included T-shirts and a growler of locally brewed beer.
“Y’all don’t mess around,” he said of the beer. Someone held a sign that said, “New York values Ted Cruz.”
But outside, the reception was icier. Signs referring to Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” and “sleaze” hung on a fence. A woman walked a dog wearing a “vote Trump” towel. The home across the street displayed a “Hillary in 2016” banner.
Even some people inside the rally were not sure what to make of Cruz’s interpretation of New York values. Erica Smith, a 31-year-old stay-at-home mother, who wore a T-shirt with the Republican elephant on it and a “Hillary for prison” button, came to see Cruz because she is unsure whom she will vote for in the April 19 primary. She said she likes Cruz far more than Trump but hasn’t made up her mind.
Smith said she understands part of where Cruz was coming from with the remark.
“The politics of New York are very corrupt, and our taxes are high,” she said, adding that the voices of people in Upstate New York often are not heard.
“As far as the values of New York,” she said, “I’m proud to be a New Yorker.”