By STEVE PEOPLES and JAKE BLEIBERG
DALLAS (AP) — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said his family vacation to Mexico was “obviously a mistake” as he returned stateside Thursday following an uproar over his disappearance during a deadly winter storm.
The Republican senator said he began second-guessing the trip since the moment he first got on the plane Wednesday. “In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it,” he told reporters.
The Associated Press and other media outlets reported that he had traveled out of the country with his family as hundreds of thousands of Texans were still grappling with the fallout of a winter storm that crippled the state’s power grid. The trip drew criticism from leaders in both parties and was seen as potentially damaging to his future political ambitions.
Cruz said in an earlier statement Thursday that he accompanied his family to Cancun a day earlier after his daughters asked to go on a trip with friends, given that school was canceled for the week.
“Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon,” Cruz wrote.
“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” he continued. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”ADVERTISEMENT
Cruz told reporters Thursday night that he returned to the U.S. because he realized he needed to be in Texas. He said he had originally been scheduled to stay in Mexico through the weekend.
“I didn’t want all the screaming and yelling about this trip to distract even one moment from the real issues that I think Texans care about, which is keeping all of our families safe,” Cruz said.
“It was obviously a mistake, and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said.
The fierce political backlash comes as Cruz eyes a second presidential run in 2024. He was already one of the most villainized Republicans in Congress, having created adversaries across the political spectrum in a career defined by far-right policies and fights with the establishment.
More recently, he emerged as a leader in former President Donald Trump’s push to overturn the results of the November election. Billboards calling for his resignation stood along Texas highways earlier in the month.
Even the state Republican Party chair declined to come to Cruz’s defense on Thursday.
“That’s something that he has to answer to his constituents about,” Texas GOP Chair Allen West said when asked whether Cruz’s travel was appropriate while Texans are without power and water.
“I’m here trying to take care of my family and look after my friends and others that are still without power,” West said. “That’s my focus.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in Texas woke up Thursday to a fourth day without power, and a water crisis was unfolding after winter storms wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities.