ALBEMARLE –– Around 275 people were in attendance at the Stanly County Fairgrounds Sunday afternoon, Feb. 16, where U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz threw his support behind North Carolina secretary of state candidate E.C. Sykes.
The sitting Republican senator from Texas delivered a 25-minute speech that detailed his background with Sykes, who served as the executive director of the Faith and Religious Liberties Coalition for Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“I know E.C. personally. I know his principles, I know his values and I know his record,” Cruz told SCJ during an interview at the event. “North Carolina wants a secretary of state focused on more jobs and higher wages, and E.C. has the background and experience to help create an environment for small businesses to grow and prosper.”
The current N.C. secretary of state, Democrat Elaine F. Marshall, has occupied that position since 1997. In a gap that has spanned well over a century, the last Republican to hold it was William H. Howerton in 1877.
Sykes told the crowd that he believes it’s time for a change of direction in that office.
“We need a businessman that knows when government needs to get out of the way and let businesses do what businesses do so well –– create jobs,” Sykes said. “One of the things that is clear is to take out waste. I’ve done that with companies in the past. We have to take that waste out of our government to make it more efficient.”
This is the first foray into politics for Sykes, an N.C. State graduate and Raleigh businessman. He has previously worked in the manufacturing field as a group president and executive officer for Flextronics International and a CEO for Circuit Board Assemblers.
Cruz mentioned that this is the first time he has ever campaigned for a secretary of state candidate but emphasized the importance of active Republican voters in “a quintessentially purple state, where the outcome statewide could be a few thousand or hundred votes.”
“It is entirely possible that the fate of the presidential race, the fate and control of the U.S. Senate, the fate and control of Congress could all come down to the state of North Carolina,” said Cruz, who confirmed that he would be at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte this August.
Cruz used the first half of his speech to give his own commentary on national political subjects like Iowa’s Democratic Caucus, the recent State of the Union, and the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
“We saw the partisan anger and bitterness culminate in Nancy Pelosi standing up and ripping in half the State of the Union speech on national television,” Cruz said. “By the way, my advice for the president is that next year, he should laminate the speech.”
The campaign rally was originally set to be a grand opening for the Stanly County Republican Headquarters at Burleson Square in Albemarle. Though the new headquarters is now up and running, the event was relocated to the Stanly County Fairgrounds so it could accommodate a larger crowd.
“It was a great turnout and pretty much what we expected,” said Stanly County Commissioner Zach Almond, a friend of Sykes who helped organize the event.
With Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly), state Sen. Carl Ford (R-Rowan), and U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC6) also in attendance Sunday, Almond stated that this type of campaigning effort can inform voters of candidates that they might not be familiar with.
“It’s good for down-ballot turnout because everyone’s going to come out to vote for Donald Trump by the droves in the general, but we need folks to finish their ballot,” Almond said. “Trump is easily going to win rural counties like Stanly, but we have to turn out our folks in order to win those down-ballot seats like E.C.’s and these other judicial races.”