Michelle Willoughby

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race over Twitter on Sunday and in a speech at Liberty University in Virginia on Monday.

Cruz is the first major candidate to announce his candidacy. Since he represents the second most-populated state in the country, Texas, Cruz is a major candidate in the current Republican race, according to government professor Sean Theriault.

“Dr. [Ben] Carson has never won an election in his life,” Theriault said, referencing another potential candidate for the Republican primary. “That doesn’t mean that he has no chance, just that he’s never demonstrated that he knows how to put a winning campaign together. Senator Cruz knows how to do that.”

Such an early announcement gives Cruz a short-term advantage, Theriault said. University Democrats president Michelle Willoughby disagreed.

“Announcing early officially isn’t an advantage,” Willoughby said. “What matters more is starting early in the early states like New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, and, in that game, Cruz is significantly later than several other [Republican] contenders who have been spending a lot of time in the early states.”

Cruz, a Texas junior senator, has been under some scrutiny regarding his eligibility to run for and/or serve as president. Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother, who is from Delaware, is a natural-born citizen. 

Cruz formally renounced his Canadian citizenship last May and claims he is natural-born through his mother.

Theriault said people questioning Cruz’s citizenship have no grounds for their worries.

“These questions about citizenship are ridiculous — not quite as ridiculous as the questions about Obama’s citizenship, but close,” Theriault said. “His mother is a naturalized citizen.”

Bridget Guien, College Republicans communications director, agreed with Theriault.

“Senator Cruz’s birthplace should not affect his eligibility to run for president,” Guien said. “He is a natural-born citizen and holds the right to run for the presidency.”

Cruz is serving his first term in the U.S. Senate. He defeated then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the 2012 election by a 14-point margin. 

Theriault said Cruz’s limited time in federal government might not affect his abilities to serve, citing President Barack Obama’s victory after one term in the Senate.

“Ask Barack Obama the same question,” Theriault said. “He was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and, four years later, became president. Cruz would follow the same path.”

Willoughby said Cruz’s political résumé concerns her, calling him the “most extreme candidate considering running.”

“He isn’t polling well, he has alienated many in the GOP leadership and the general Republican voters with his grandstanding, and he is likely to have issues even with the groups that supported him in his campaign for Senator with a more crowded field,” Willoughby said. “These factors mean Cruz winning the primary is pretty unlikely.”

Theriault has more faith in Cruz’s abilities to persevere in the presidential race.

“For the Republicans in 2016, it all comes down to how the other candidates collapse,” Theriault said. “If the hard-right candidates fall like flies, and Cruz wins Iowa, he could have some longevity, especially if Bush has some competition from the ‘establishment’ wing of his party.”

The College Republicans do not officially endorse anybody in the primaries because the group is an auxiliary of the Republican Party.

Gubernatorial candidates state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and their student supporters have settled on equal pay and wage discrimination as the next key issue of the 2014 campaign.

Abbott said that as governor he would veto a state version of The Equal Pay Act or Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Davis has attacked Abbott’s position by arguing that existing equal pay laws are insufficient. The Equal Pay Act was a federal law signed in 1963 to prevent wage discrimination based on gender. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was a federal statute which amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and stated that a person has 180 days to file a lawsuit for pay discrimination from when they received their paycheck.

Abbott said the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Texas Labor Code and the Texas Government Code have adequate provisions for equal pay already.

“If there are ongoing issues about equal pay, I don’t think the question is whether we need more laws. The question is whether those laws just need to be enforced better,” Abbott said in a statement. 

Amy Nabozny, history sophomore and College Republicans vice president, said she thinks current equal pay laws are sufficient because it’s already illegal to discriminate based on gender.

“It’s a waste of our legislature’s time and resources to be passing redundant legislation,” Nabozny said. “If there’s any issue in how the federal courts process these claims, then they should be looking to improve it there.”

Nabozny said she supports Abbott’s decision to veto additional legislation addressing equal pay in Texas.

“We already have laws protecting discriminatory action — period,” Nabozny said. “Right now, I am ashamed how Wendy Davis is victimizing women in order to gain ground in this race.”

Michelle Willoughby, government junior and Students for Wendy Davis community outreach director, said she thinks employers should offer paternity leave. Willoughby said if employers offer benefits for their male workers, they will stop viewing maternity leave as a downside to hiring women.

“If employers thought that young male employers were equally likely to take six to eight weeks off after starting a family and possibly drop out of the workforce for some amount of time, then they would be more likely to hire and pay women entering the workforce at the same rates they do with their male counterparts,” Willoughby said.

The Davis campaign could not be reached for comment.

Sarah Melecki, graduate research assistant and former chair of the Feminist Policy Alliance, said she thinks gender equality requires a combination of policy and social change.

“If a woman in Texas experiences wage discrimination, she has to take it up on a federal level,” Melecki said.

Melecki said increasing wage equality for people of all socioeconomic, gender and ethnic backgrounds requires that state or federal governments increase paternity and family leave, provide affordable child care and increase the minimum wage.

Melecki said although she thinks the Lilly Ledbetter Act was important and necessary, it does not address the needs of many women, such as those lower income or gay women.

“The people who are affected by [the Lilly Ledbetter Act] are mostly white women who have had the educational opportunities and have gone into a field that allows them to do that,” Melecki said. “Lilly Ledbetter is great and it’s necessary, but it’s necessary to look at women on all sides of the spectrum.”

Journalism and and philosophy senior Allison Heinrich catches up on homework with her fellow University Democrats at the West Mall on Monday evening. The University Democrates rallied at West Mall until poles opened at 7 a.m. this morning to increase awareness of the oppurtunity to vote early. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

University Democrats rallied at the West Mall beginning at 9 p.m. Monday to encourage students to vote early for the Travis County elections on March 4. Early voting opens Tuesday at 7 a.m.

The organization has been holding the event, which is called Voterama, for several years to increase student awareness of the opportunity to vote early, according to Michelle Willoughby, government junior and communications director for University Democrats.

“We are very lucky to have a polling place on campus, and we want to make sure students take advantage of it,” Willoughby said. “We also work very hard to increase young people’s voting in general.”

Willoughby also said the organization holds other events throughout the year to encourage students to vote.

“Another thing we do is Democracy Dogs, where we bring dogs to campus on Election Day,” Willoughby said. “People stop to pet the dogs, and that gives a chance to talk to them about voting.”

Candidates running in the Travis County elections that are endorsed by University Democrats also spoke at Voterama, both to defend their platforms and to offer additional promotion of early voting. Endorsed candidates included Richard Jung, who is running for Travis County commissioner for Precinct 2, Andy Brown, who is running for county judge, and Ramey Ko, who is running for county treasurer.

Ko, who is a UT law lecturer and a member of University Democrats, said he comes to the Voterama event for every election cycle and has probably attended a dozen by now.

“I have a feeling that, if it wasn’t for [University Democrats] doing this event, students would not have as much a sense of what’s happening on a county, city and state level,” Ko said. “It can be difficult, particularly as a college student, to pay attention to what’s happening at city hall … even though our lives are affected much more directly by [those elections].”

David Feigen, government and communications studies senior and president of University Democrats, said the organization took care when deciding which candidates to endorse for the March primaries.

“From our standpoint, it is important not just to elect the Democrats on the ballot but elect the best Democrats who we think are the most progressive and the most qualified for leadership,” Feigen said. “It’s [also] important that people know that the March primaries mean just as much as any other election.”