ROY MAYNARD AND CALVIN MAYNARD, news@tylerpaper.com

Inn his first public appearance after his surprise announcement of support for Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he understands the discouragement many constitutional conservatives feel, but he’ll vote for Trump on Nov. 8.

Speaking at the Grassroots America-We The People’s Champions of Freedom Awards Dinner, Cruz said he fears conservatives will stay at home and not vote.

“This election, some people who are discouraged, demoralized, who say ‘I’m going to go fishing’ - I understand that sentiment, I promise you,” he said. “But it doesn’t take that many good conservatives staying home, that many people saying, ‘Not my cup of tea,’ for us to see absolute disaster at every level on the ticket, down to the local levels.”

He did not use the word “endorse,” but said he will cast a ballot in support of Trump. He said the most important reason is the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a vacancy following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. He said constitutional rights are at stake.

“Right after right after right that is hanging by a thread,” he said. “We know what kind of justices Hillary Clinton will appoint. Every single one will be a left-wing ideologue who will vote to strip away rights.”

Cruz took to Facebook earlier Friday with a lengthy post about why he will vote for Donald Trump.

“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” he posted. “I’ve made this decision for two reasons. First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word. Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable - that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary.”

Cruz famously declined to endorse Trump in his primetime speech at the Republican National Convention, instead urging voters to “vote your conscience.” He left the stage to boos.

On Friday, he met with standing ovations. As she was introducing Cruz, Grassroots America executive director JoAnn Fleming said, “he has kept every promise he made to us.”

Cruz said Ms. Fleming asked tough questions when he met with her before his Senate run in 2012.

“Fastball? It was more like machine gun bullets,” he said.

But he quickly turned to the big announcement today.

“Some of y’all may remember a couple of months ago I stood up in Cleveland,” he said. “I said do not stay home, come out and vote, vote your conscience. Vote for candidates you trust up and down the ticket. I meant it then, and I mean it now.”

Trump is not an ideal candidate, he said, but he’s better than the alternative. After citing the differences between the two candidates - from Second Amendment rights to religious liberty to the Affordable Care Act - Cruz said the choice is clear.

“I know Hillary Clinton would follow through on every one of those promises,” he said. “I know the devastation that would happen. I couldn’t look my children in the eye and say I stood by and let that happen. Every one of you must make that same decision.”

But there’s a real danger that the bruising primary fights and Trump’s attacks have left movement conservatives uncomfortable with supporting Trump. But the election is about more than Trump, he said.

“I will be doing everything I can to keep a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “There are a lot of days I wish the Republican majority did more. I will keep saying that. But I will tell you four words I hope never to utter: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.”

Cruz, who was accompanied by his pastor father, Rafael Cruz, said “God isn’t done with America yet.”

“I’m committed to encouraging everybody, show up, stand up, vote,” he said. “Stand for our principles.”

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