Like tens of millions of his constituents throughout Texas, Senator Ted Cruz had a frigid house with out electrical energy this week amid the state’s energy disaster. But in contrast to most, Mr. Cruz obtained out, fleeing Houston and hopping a Wednesday afternoon flight to Cancún together with his household for a respite at a luxurious resort.
Photos of Mr. Cruz and his spouse, Heidi, boarding the flight ricocheted shortly throughout social media and left each his political allies and rivals aghast at a tropical journey as a catastrophe unfolded at house. The blowback solely intensified after Mr. Cruz, a Republican, launched an announcement saying he had flown to Mexico “to be a good dad” and accompany his daughters and their associates; he famous he was flying again Thursday afternoon, although he didn’t disclose how lengthy he had initially supposed to keep.
Text messages despatched from Ms. Cruz to associates and Houston neighbors on Wednesday revealed a rapidly deliberate journey. Their home was “FREEZING,” as Ms. Cruz put it — and he or she proposed a Sunday return. Ms. Cruz invited others to be a part of them on the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, the place that they had stayed “many times,” noting the room value this week ($309 per evening) and its good safety. The textual content messages have been offered to The New York Times and confirmed by a second particular person on the thread, who declined to be recognized due to the personal nature of the texts.
For greater than 12 hours after the airport departure pictures first emerged, Mr. Cruz’s workplace declined to touch upon his whereabouts. The Houston police confirmed that the senator’s workplace had sought their help for his airport journey on Wednesday, and finally Mr. Cruz was noticed wheeling his suitcase in Mexico on Thursday as he returned to the state he represents within the Senate.
As the Cruzes have been away, tens of millions of Texans have been nonetheless with out electrical energy, many had no operating water and the icy air that swept into the state was so extreme that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been activated to ship provides, together with mills. Some searched neighborhoods for discarded fallen timber to burn for heat.
“What’s happening in Texas is unacceptable,” Mr. Cruz advised a television crew on the Cancún airport. He was sporting a Texas state flag masks and a short-sleeved polo shirt tucked into his denims; the temperature in Cancún was above 80 levels Fahrenheit on Thursday, and within the 30s in Houston.
Mr. Cruz’s critics shortly circulated hashtags mocking his journey: #FlyinTed, a play on former President Donald J. Trump’s derisive nickname for Mr. Cruz throughout the 2016 major race, and #FledCruz, amongst them. Some Democratic teams sought to fund-raise off the episode, and the state Democratic Party renewed its repeated requires Mr. Cruz’s resignation.
“This is about as callous as any politician can get,” mentioned Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Party chairman. Mr. Hinojosa mentioned he was shocked however not shocked by Mr. Cruz’s worldwide tour: “He’s a politician that really has never cared much about anybody but himself.”
If Mr. Cruz supposed to go away the impression that he meant to keep for under a day, his giant suitcase and the group textual content messages Ms. Cruz had despatched planning an extended itinerary steered he had reduce his journey brief. NBC reported individually that Mr. Cruz had rebooked his return ticket on Thursday morning.
“With school canceled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” Mr. Cruz mentioned of his daughters, who’re 10 and 12, in his assertion on Thursday. “Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”
Untimely holidays and opulent splurges have lengthy ensnared politicians in scandals and public-relations complications: the worldwide journeys organized by the disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff within the early 2000s for members of Congress; Chris Christie, then the governor of New Jersey, sitting on a state seaside in 2017 after he had ordered such seashores closed due to a authorities shutdown; and, extra not too long ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California eating with no masks throughout the pandemic final 12 months on the high-end restaurant the French Laundry.
Mr. Cruz’s resolution to go away his state in the midst of an emergency was an particularly confounding one for an formidable politician who has already run for president as soon as and is broadly seen as wanting to run once more in 2024 or past.
“It was clearly an error in judgment,” mentioned Ray Sullivan, an Austin-based Republican strategist who served as chief of workers to former Gov. Rick Perry. While a senator can’t personally restore the facility grid, Mr. Sullivan mentioned, “people expect their elected officials to be fully engaged during a crisis.”
Mr. Cruz, 50, narrowly gained re-election in 2018 in opposition to Beto O’Rourke, a former Democratic consultant, carrying lower than 51 p.c of the vote. In that race, Mr. Cruz had aggressively highlighted his efforts throughout a previous emergency, Hurricane Harvey. He just isn’t up for re-election till 2024.
While town of Houston was gripped by the freezing climate on Wednesday, a member of Mr. Cruz’s workers contacted personnel with the Houston Police Department at George Bush Intercontinental Airport forward of his flight requesting “assistance upon arrival,” in accordance to Jodi Silva, a division spokeswoman.
Ms. Silva mentioned the police had “monitored his movements” earlier than he departed. Officers were seen accompanying him upon his Thursday return.
Mr. Cruz insisted in his assertion on Thursday that he and his workers had been “in constant communication” with state and native leaders throughout his temporary Cancún journey.
“This has been an infuriating week for Texans,” he mentioned.
In his assertion, Mr. Cruz famous that the personal college his daughters attend in Houston was closed this week. But another dad and mom on the college have been incensed after they heard about his worldwide journey due to the pandemic and faculty insurance policies which have discouraged such journey overseas.
Two dad and mom offered a duplicate of the written college coverage for college kids not to return to school rooms for seven days after worldwide journey, or to take a Covid take a look at three to 5 days after returning, which might hold the Cruz youngsters out of faculty for the next week. (Separately, an aide to Mr. Cruz mentioned he had taken a virus take a look at earlier than his return flight on Thursday; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires a detrimental outcome.)
When Ms. Cruz wrote to the group textual content of neighbors attempting to climate the acute circumstances early Wednesday morning, she mentioned the household had been staying with associates to hold heat, however shortly pivoted to providing an invite to get away.
“Anyone can or want to leave for the week?” she wrote. “We may go to Cancún.” She teased a “direct flight” and “hotels w capacity. Seriously.” Ms. Cruz promptly shared particulars for a Wednesday afternoon departure, a Sunday return journey and an expensive keep on the oceanfront Ritz Carlton within the meantime.
No one appeared to chew, however Ms. Cruz did lengthen a extra sensible provide. “We have gas stove, so at least we can heat water little that there is happy to help anyone we can too,” she wrote.
The Times shared the contents of the messages with Mr. Cruz’s Senate workplace, however his aides didn’t remark. Ms. Cruz didn’t return a name looking for remark.
Mr. Cruz has lengthy rankled members of each events as a self-promoter since his arrival on Capitol Hill in 2013. Later that 12 months, he grew to become the main actor within the drama that pressured a authorities shutdown over the Affordable Care Act, and in 2016, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, famously joked throughout a speech that, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”
But if Mr. Cruz aggravated his colleagues, he simply as shortly gained over the Tea Party wing of the G.O.P. He ran as an anti-establishment champion within the 2016 Republican presidential major and completed because the runner-up to Mr. Trump, brandishing his colleagues’ disdain as a badge of honor.
Representative Lizzie Fletcher, a Democrat who represents Mr. Cruz’s Houston neighborhood in Congress, mentioned on Thursday that the state was going through an “all-hands-on-deck situation” and that its leaders have been wanted to assist marshal the federal response on the bottom.
Ms. Fletcher was out of energy herself till Wednesday and charged her telephone in her automotive to proceed to make calls to the House speaker, FEMA and different businesses — too busy, she mentioned, to take into consideration Mr. Cruz’s “decision to leave the state at this time.”
“Leadership matters,” she mentioned.
Mr. Cruz had been aware of the potential disaster prematurely. In a radio interview on Monday, he mentioned the state may see up to 100 deaths this week. “So don’t risk it,” he mentioned. “Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids.”
Mr. Cruz had attacked a Democrat, Mayor Stephen Adler of Austin, in December for taking a visit to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, whereas telling constituents to “stay home” throughout the pandemic.
“Hypocrites,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Complete and utter hypocrites.”