Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz courted voters the old-fashioned way — in an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in Columbus. The Texas senator spent an hour Monday afternoon dishing up smiles, handshakes and thank-yous to earn support for Indiana’s May 3 primary.
His daughters Caroline and Catherine savored the moment, too, sitting on stools at the Zaharakos counter and snacking on scoops of ice cream.
But not all things about the candidate’s Columbus visit were sugary and sweet.
Moments after Cruz stepped off his large, black campaign bus, looking into a large crowd outside the restaurant on Washington Street, Kathy Heil of Elizabeth — a small town in Harrison County — let Cruz know she was unhappy about the delegate strategy some Republicans are using to prevent Republican candidate Donald Trump from winning the party’s nomination outright through state primaries.
Heil said she was unhappy that fellow GOP candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Cruz appeared to be collaborating to work against Trump rather than letting the voters decide the winner.
Cruz and Kasich announced terms of an unprecedented agreement late Sunday night to coordinate primary strategies in three of the 15 remaining primary states.
Kasich will step away in next Tuesday’s contest in Indiana — a state in which the primary winner earns all the delegates — to let Cruz provide a single Republican option to Trump. In return, Cruz will switch roles with Kasich in subsequent GOP contests May 17 in Oregon and June 7 in New Mexico.
“You’re fighting your fight on the wrong end,” Heil told Cruz.
The candidate listened and remained calm, then told Heil that if she had been confronting Trump about an issue that she would have been yelled at.
As Cruz moved on, he told that crowd, “That’s the way it is with civil discourse, you don’t insult them.”
While others who opposed Cruz displayed either official Trump signs or homemade messages, the Texas senator had an easier time with most of the others he met.
Columbus resident John Doughterty, who served as a Navy corpsman in the 1960s, was among the crowd that greeted Cruz outside Zaharakos, shook the candidate’s hand and told him that he was glad Cruz was supportive of the military.
Dougherty said afterward that he likes how Cruz doesn’t seem to be separating people into groups but rather views everyone as Americans.
“I’d like to see Americans go back to being Americans and not get broken up,” he said.
Inside the restaurant, Columbus resident Deborah Kleinschmidt got a few moments of Cruz’s time to express her concerns about what the next commander in chief should do if he or she starts a military campaign.
Kleinschmidt is the mother of Marine Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary, a 2002 Columbus East graduate who died Feb. 18, 2010, in Afghanistan. McQueary, 27, was killed by shrapnel from an improvised explosive device.
“I don’t want to see another president come in that starts an operation and doesn’t finish it,” she said after their meeting.
Kleinschmidt said she felt that did not happen in Afghanistan, and said so to Cruz.
She offered him a free copy of a cookbook, “Recipes and Remembrances of Our Fallen Heroes,” that she has been selling to support several military organizations. Instead, he paid her $20 for the $10 cookbook.
Kleinschmidt said she had already decided to vote for Cruz, but wanted to meet him in person anyway.
Rachel Guglielmo, of Bloomington, came to Zaharakos in hopes of talking to Cruz about gun sense in America. She got a couple minutes with the candidate, explaining that the organization she was representing — Moms Demand Action — supports responsible gun ownership that is consistent with the Second Amendment.
“He said he completely supports that,” Guglielmo said.
Cruz’s stop in Columbus was part of a campaign he has mounted in the Hoosier state. Last week Cruz met privately with Gov. Mike Pence, a Columbus native, and appeared at the GOP Spring Dinner, where Pence was the keynote speaker.
On Monday, he started in Borden, and after leaving Columbus was scheduled to make stops in Greenwood and Franklin.
Zaharakos owner Tony Moravec, who agreed to let his restaurant serve as a political stop for Cruz’s campaign, said he was pleased at how it went.
“It was great seeing so many children here, learning why he came to town and what for,” Moravec said, noting that his 10-year-old grandson, Zane Moravec, was among them.