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Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz to address North Dakota GOP convention Saturday

BISMARCK - Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz will deliver the keynote address Saturday at the state GOP convention in Fargo, taking the stage the day before delegates hear from former presidential hopeful Ben Carson, who has endorsed Cru...

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Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks Tuesday to the crowd at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield, Wis. (Reuters)

BISMARCK – Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz will deliver the keynote address Saturday at the state GOP convention in Fargo, taking the stage the day before delegates hear from former presidential hopeful Ben Carson, who has endorsed Cruz’s bitter rival, Donald Trump.

Cruz, a freshman U.S. senator from Texas, will speak at about 1 p.m. Saturday at Scheels Arena, state GOP Executive Director Roz Leighton said Tuesday.

“I think it’s great that we’ve got presidential candidates and former candidates that are excited about North Dakota and coming here and speaking to our delegates,” she said. “It just goes to show that North Dakota does in fact play a role in the presidential race.”

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who suspended his campaign March 4 and endorsed Trump a week later, will address the convention at about 10:10 a.m. Sunday, party officials said late last week. The convention begins Friday.

In the race for the GOP nomination, Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich trail Trump as the candidates try to lock up a majority of the 2,472 delegates to the Republican National Convention in July to become the presumptive nominee.

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Trump leads with 739 delegates, followed by Cruz with 465 and Kasich with 143. Cruz has called for Kasich to drop out of the race, a request Kasich called “absurd” on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.

North Dakota will send 28 delegates to the national convention – three automatic delegates and 25 who will be endorsed during the state convention.

Under state party rules, North Dakota’s delegates are not bound to any candidate, which has generated excitement among party officials that the delegates could play a key role on the first ballot of a contested convention.

Before being elected to the Senate, Cruz served as solicitor general of Texas, making oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court nine times. He had previously worked for the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice and as domestic policy advisor on the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign, according to his official Senate bio.

Cruz is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He and his wife, Heidi, live in his hometown of Houston with two young daughters.

Cruz and Trump have clashed in recent days over perceived slights against their spouses that each blamed on their opponent.

Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, a Cuban-born pastor, public speaker and campaign surrogate for his son, is visiting North Dakota this week. He spoke Monday in Fargo and was scheduled to speak Tuesday in Valley City, Jamestown and Bismarck.

In addition to the more than 1,700 delegates expected to attend the convention, 800 tickets will be made available to the public online later Tuesday on a first-come, first-serve basis for the entire convention April 1-3 at a cost of $25 per person, Leighton said.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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