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Heidi Nelson Cruz: A Political Spouse Making Sacrifices and Courting Donors

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Heidi Nelson Cruz: A Political Spouse Making Sacrifices and Courting Donors

Heidi Nelson Cruz: A Political Spouse Making Sacrifices and Courting Donors
január 18
13:03 2016
Hirdetés

Heidi Nelson Cruz: A Political Spouse Making Sacrifices and Courting Donors

Heidi Nelson Cruz and her husband, Senator Ted Cruz, at a campaign event in Bloomingdale, Ga., last month. Credit Stephen B. Morton for The New York Times

Heidi Nelson Cruz stepped to the lectern in a black gown, waiting for the applause to settle. She was beaming.

Speaking to college graduates in Tennessee, Mrs. Cruz — then 31, with an M.B.A. from Harvard and a dream job at the White House — peppered her commencement address with a cache of worldly wisdom: No job is beneath you. Don’t be afraid to fail. And, perhaps most important, choose the right partner.

“Marry someone who complements you, literally and figuratively,” she said. “Few, if any, decisions will have a greater impact on your happiness.”

Left unspoken: Mrs. Cruz and her husband, Senator Ted Cruz, were living 1,500 miles apart and trying to find a happy balance in their own lives.

Soon after, Mrs. Cruz quit her high-powered post in Washington, took a job in finance and moved to Texas, an unfamiliar place, to be closer to Mr. Cruz, then the state’s solicitor general. The transition unsettled her.
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In August 2005, a police officer in Austin, answering a call about a woman sitting beside an expressway on-ramp, found Mrs. Cruz with her head in her hands. He transported her to an unnamed facility, according to his report, which said, “I believed that she was a danger to herself.”
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Heidi Nelson Cruz Discusses Her Husband, Her Career and Campaign Fund-Raising

Mrs. Cruz, who served in the George W. Bush administration and became a Goldman Sachs executive, says she feels comfortable requesting donations for the presidential race.

Mrs. Cruz rebounded, and a decade later, she is a successful executive and a force in Mr. Cruz’s presidential campaign. She has kept a far more active public campaign schedule than any other spouse in the Republican field, traveling the country, often without her husband, to deliver speeches with the easy charm of a candidate. (“We talk at the end of the night,” Mr. Cruz told an Iowa crowd recently, “and typically we say, ‘O.K., where are you today?’ ”)

In recent weeks, Mrs. Cruz, 43, has joined her husband for appearances in Iowa and across the South, often introducing him with their two daughters, 5 and 7, fussing at her sides.

After about a decade as a financial adviser to the wealthy clients of Goldman Sachs, she has become a fund-raising power, specializing in soliciting maximum contributions from well-heeled donors.

Mr. Cruz’s allies and campaign aides describe her less as a “secret weapon,” the typical characterization of a political spouse, than as an all-purpose surrogate and strategist to be deployed as often as possible.

Indeed, as Mr. Cruz emerges as a top contender in the Republican presidential field, there is no more vital supporter than his wife — the high-achieving partner who sacrificed her own ambitions, at considerable personal cost, to advance her husband’s.

“God leads you to where he can use you the most,” she said in an interview last week. “And it may not look exactly like you’d expect.”
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Mrs. Cruz at her husband’s presidential campaign announcement in March 2015. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

Her background in finance has proved useful: Quite at ease asking for large sums of money, Mrs. Cruz makes as many as 10 calls a day seeking the maximum contribution couples can make to the campaign.

“The $10,800 contributions is my lane,” she said.

Inside the campaign, Mrs. Cruz has built a model that seems lifted from Wall Street, with donors labeled “investors” who are privy to “quarterly investor meetings” to discuss the “product.”

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She also helped recruit an important fund-raiser, Lila Ontiveros, after Ms. Ontiveros left Goldman Sachs.

At times, the dual role of Goldman executive and political spouse has attracted attention, tugging the firm’s name into contentious political debates. For example, when Mr. Cruz helped cause a government shutdown over President Obama’s health care law, Mr. Cruz was pressed into acknowledging that he was covered by his wife’s Goldman plan, valued at more than $20,000 a year.

And this month, Mr. Cruz said his 2012 Senate campaign had failed to properly disclose large loans from Goldman and Citibank, muddying the couple’s tale of having poured their life savings into the race.
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Mrs. Cruz as a freshman at Claremont McKenna College in California. Credit via Ted Cruz campaign

Last spring, Mrs. Cruz took an unpaid leave of absence from Goldman, immediately focusing on fund-raising for the campaign. By the fall, she had begun appearing often at her own public events and, on occasion, taking their daughters to accompany Mr. Cruz at his.

“It was deemed helpful by the campaign just to begin to show our family a little bit,” she said, “and to speak to voters on why I, as probably the person closest to Ted, see him as the person who should be leading our country.”

A Tough Transition

Mrs. Cruz’s business savvy showed early in life. As a 6-year-old in San Luis Obispo, Calif., she began operating a bustling bread stand, baking for four hours each day with her brother after school.

Born into a family of Seventh-day Adventist missionaries who were steeped in medicine — her father a dentist, her mother a hygienist, and her brother an orthopedic surgeon — Mrs. Cruz traveled on missions to faraway places like Nigeria.

She graduated from Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, took an investment banking job, earned a master of European business degree from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium and enrolled at Harvard Business School.
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The Cruzes watching the election results for Mr. Cruz’s Senate race in 2012. Credit David J. Phillip/Associated Press

“She stood out for knowing where she wanted to go,” said Edward Haley, an international relations professor at Claremont McKenna and a longtime mentor. “The only question was how to find those opportunities.”

In 2000, she secured a spot on George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign as an economic policy aide in Austin, where she met Mr. Cruz, another Bush policy adviser. Their first date was a dinner that lasted nearly four hours. In a 2001 New York Times Magazine article about couples who met while working on the Bush campaign, Mr. Cruz said he had driven her to the airport so she could fly back to finish her Harvard M.B.A. and asked, “What do you want to do now?”

Mrs. Cruz responded, “If you really want to keep in touch, I want to talk to you every day.”

By May 2001, the Cruzes were married. Over the next several years, their union was tested.

As Mrs. Cruz climbed the ranks of the Bush administration, eventually working at the National Security Council under Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Cruz’s Washington track stalled, prompting him to return to Texas, where in 2003 he was appointed solicitor general, an influential post.

The pair had reached a crossroads: Mrs. Cruz had made it in Washington. Mr. Cruz had made it in Texas.

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Mrs. Cruz arriving to meet with volunteers for the campaign in Nashua, N.H., this month. Credit Cheryl Senter for The New York Times

After the couple spent more than a year commuting to see each other, Mrs. Cruz diverted her career path to join her husband in Texas — taking on the challenge of returning to the financial services industry after years away. She initially joined Merrill Lynch in Houston, about 160 miles from Mr. Cruz’s job in Austin.

“I was living in a city by myself again,” she said in an interview, “and that is sort of a strange circumstance to move to be with your spouse but then, like, not be with your spouse.”

But Mrs. Cruz has seldom discussed the full toll of that transition and, in particular, the night of Aug. 22, 2005, when the Austin police fielded a call about a woman in a pink shirt with her head in her hands, sitting near an expressway.

When an officer approached, Mrs. Cruz explained that she had walked out after dinner. As she sat 10 feet from traffic, the officer determined that she was a danger to herself, according to a heavily redacted police report first obtained by BuzzFeed News. Additional details from another version of the report obtained by The Times showed that the officer transported her to the unnamed facility. In the interview last week, Mrs. Cruz declined to elaborate on what happened that night and said there had been no similar incidents since. She refrained from using the word “depression,” although in his book, “A Time for Truth,” Mr. Cruz wrote that her move to Texas had “led to her facing a period of depression.”

“I don’t have years and years of major suffering from this,” she said, “and I want to use it to strengthen people around me and to recognize that we all have rough patches.”

Mrs. Cruz described seeking comfort in her faith and the company of those close to her, particularly a sister-in-law.
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Graphic: 2016 Primary Calendar and Results

Asked how Mr. Cruz had supported her, Mrs. Cruz called him “patient” with what seemed like a “weird decision, to say, ‘Let’s stay together and move home, but not move to the same city.’ ”

“He would just listen and give me a hug and say, ‘I want to do whatever you want to do,’ ” she recalled. “ ‘And if you want to live in Houston to be at an investment bank, it’ll be harder for me to not have you in Austin. But if that’s what you want, let’s do that.’ ”

Rebounding in Texas

It did not take long for Mrs. Cruz to find her footing. She soon joined Goldman Sachs, where she was early to arrive each day and among the last to leave, impressing her boss at the time, Peter Coneway, who helped recruit her to the firm in 2005 and later recommended her to lead the office.

Mr. Coneway recalled Mrs. Cruz’s thriving in a region where the money management industry was largely a men’s club.

As she built a network of clients, she found politics to be an icebreaker and her husband a willing partner at dinners with prospective investors. She would call on him to “help make the ask,” she said on a panel at Claremont McKenna in 2011. (Mrs. Cruz told The Times, though, that she believed in a “separation of church and state” between business and politics and did not ask her clients to donate to the campaigns.)
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Amid their hectic schedules, the Cruzes started a family. When their daughters were born, some assumed that it would signal a professional change for Mrs. Cruz, but with the help of nannies, it did not.

“Just the fact that I came back from maternity leave was shocking to everyone in Houston,” Mrs. Cruz said. She said having live-in help had allowed the Cruzes to take on more than some families could imagine.

About a week after Texans elected Mr. Cruz to the Senate in 2012, Goldman announced Mrs. Cruz’s elevation to its ranks of managing directors — a well-deserved promotion, colleagues said.

On the campaign trail, Mrs. Cruz can appear at turns upbeat and disarmingly sincere. Greeting supporters at a luncheon recently in Andover, Mass., she toggled between the warm, conspiratorial tone of a close friend and the campaign fluency of an operative. When a young volunteer based in Boston told her that it was tough to be a Cruz supporter in such a liberal city, Mrs. Cruz suggested a potential pitch.

“Ted being a constitutionalist helps you a lot in places like Boston — 10th Amendment, back to the states,” she said, as if confiding a secret.

“I’ll definitely try that out,” the girl said, looking relieved.

Between public appearances, Mrs. Cruz cajoles officials for coveted endorsements and travels, with or without Mr. Cruz, to meet potential donors.

In recent weeks, Mrs. Cruz headlined a luncheon at a home in Los Angeles and a fund-raiser in Dallas. She was the guest of honor at an intimate reception in downtown Seattle. Between events, she phoned scores of donors, focusing on the ones most likely to give the maximum $10,800.

“My role is very simple,” Mrs. Cruz said. “Doing whatever I can do to help Ted win.”

Jonathan Martin, Jeremy Merrill and Ashley Parker contributed reporting.

Find out what you need to know about the 2016 presidential race today, and get politics news updates via Facebook, Twitter and the First Draft newsletter.

A version of this article appears in print on January 18, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Cruz’s Spouse Making Rain, and Sacrifices. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe
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