Presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, attended services at Cross Church in Springdale on Sunday morning, prompting pastor Ronnie Floyd to publicly invite every other major party candidate for the office by name.
Floyd told more than 2,200 churchgoers plus media in attendance that Cross Church would welcome any candidate of any party to its services and that Cruz' attendance was not to be construed as an endorsement. Cruz is a member in good standing of a Baptist congregation in Huston, the senator said later. Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The state's partisan primary is Tuesday, along with non-partisan judicial elections. In all, eight southern states plus Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont, Wyoming and American Samoa will vote that day. Cruz has called the Southern "SEC" primary "most important day in the entire cycle."
Steve Blount, of Sallisaw, Okla., was in the crowd that gathered waiting for a chance to see Cruz. Blount, who was already in town, said he was impressed that Cruz showed up for a function where he was not allowed to be one of the speakers.
“That means it's his true heart. It wasn't about him today,” Blount said.
Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse accompanied Cruz, as he would any visiting dignitary, Sprouse said. The mayor and his wife, Sandy, sat with Cruz three seats back from the front, directly ahead of Floyd as he gave the sermon.
"He knows the songs," Sprouse said of Cruz. "It's obvious he spends time in church."
Cruz was the third GOP candidate for office to make an appearance in Northwest Arkansas in less than 24 hours, and Cruz news conference after Sunday services was his second campaign stop in the state in less than 12 hours. Businessman Donald Trump arrived at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport for a rally shortly before 12:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by Cruz holding a rally at he Doubletree Hotel in Little Rock, arriving about 9 p.m. At 9:30 the same night, rival Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., arrived at Immanuel Baptist Church Global Outreach Center in Rogers.
The three competing GOP candidates heavily disparaged each other at each of those events and, likewise, Cruz did at his 10:30 a.m. news conference following church services Sunday. Remaining GOP candidates Gov. John Kaisch of Ohio and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson of Baltimore were only mentioned in passing at each event.
Cruz criticized Rubio for sponsoring a "massive amnesty bill" for undocumented immigrants in 2013, and Trump for supporting senators who were for that failed bill with campaign contributions.
"If you want a politician who will go along and get along, I'm not your guy," Cruz said at the news conference. "I will not compromise and give away your liberty."
He said the recent death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia shows how urgent it is for social conservaties and others concerned with freedom to elect a president with their values.