Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made his first Pittsburgh-area campaign stop Saturday, becoming the last major presidential candidate to stroll through the Steel City ahead of Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary.
About 1,000 people stood in line on the chilly, overcast day to fill the auditorium of Gateway High School in Monroeville.
Inside, Cruz reiterated the three constants of his well-honed stump -- jobs, freedom and security. While on the campaign trail, Cruz has talked about wanting to abolish the IRS, repeal Obamacare and put a higher legal value on religious freedoms and gun rights.
“Pennsylvania is an energy state," he said. "You know, being a Texan I know a little bit about that. And energy is key to bringing manufacturing to America, bringing the steel industry back to America. Low-cost energy means jobs.”
Fellow Republican candidate Donald Trump made a similar pledge to bring back the long-dormant steel and coal industries while speaking at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center April 13.
Cruz also promised to bring overseas manufacturing jobs back home and dubbed America "the Saudia Arabia of coal."
"We're going to see millions of new high-paying jobs," he said. "We're going to see jobs coming back from Mexico, coming back from China. We're going to see manufacturing jobs coming back to Pennsylvania."
He drew raucous applause insisting transgender men and women must conform to the sex assigned to them at birth, especially when visiting a restroom. Cruz lambasted Trump for saying recently that Caitlyn Jenner could use any bathroom she wanted at Trump Towers.
"(Trump) agreed with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that grown men should be allowed to use the little girls' restroom," Cruz said. "As the father of two young girls, I can tell you, it doesn't make any sense at all to allow adult grown men, strangers, to be alone in a bathroom with little girls. And that's just political correctness on steroids."
Longtime friends Morgan Dehner and Zach Borland, both 24, got up at 6:30 a.m. to make the two-hour drive from Seneca, Pa. Though Borland said he’s unwavering in his support of Cruz, Dehner said she is still deciding between Trump and Cruz. With a father and three older brothers all serving in the military, she said veterans’ issues are her top priority.
“I really would like to see the next president shed some more light on supporting (the troops), as well as our veterans,” she said. “They don’t get the respect or credit that they deserve.”
Borland said he likes Cruz because he’s been consistent throughout both his Senatorial tenure and his latest national campaign.
“I feel like I can trust him,” he said.
Several of Cruz’s supporters in Monroeville on Saturday said his staunch constitutionalism was important to them, including 54-year-old Lynn Fessler, Westmoreland County.
“All of our rights are governed by that, all of our laws,” she said. “And without that, we have nothing. Anybody could do whatever.”
First time voter, 19-year-old David Wovchko, of Crafton said Cruz is most in line with his “radical libertarian” views.
“In this case, Ted Cruz has a really good record for standing for free markets and that’s very valuable to me,” he said. “(He) can move us closer to a world I’d like to see.”
Wovchko waited to see Cruz with is mother, Eve. The elder Wovchko, 59, said she was happy her husband, a lifelong Democrat, changed parties this year to vote for Cruz and that her son was voting for him in his first election.
“I’m really glad that he chose Cruz,” she said.
Cruz is scheduled to appear later in the day at events in Oregon and Indiana.