Governor Greg Abbott shook hands with then-U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz as Cruz's wife Heidi Cruz looked on at a campaign rally in Dallas on Feb. 29, 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Mike Stone

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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz announced Wednesday he will vote for Gov. Greg Abbott for reelection, prompting boos from a staunchly conservative crowd after citing their long relationship working together and saying he would be a “disloyal jackass” if he did not vote for the fellow Republican.

Cruz’s remarks came during a town hall in Grapevine organized by the True Texas Project, a far-right group that was previously known as the NE Tarrant Tea Party. An audience member stated that the crowd favors “anyone but Abbott” in 2022 and asked Cruz if he would commit to endorsing one of Abbott’s primary challengers or commit to staying out of the primary altogether.

Abbott has drawn at least three primary opponents, including former Dallas state Sen. Don Huffines and former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West. They have been critical of Abbott’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and questioned his overall commitment to conservative causes.

Cruz said there are “a lot of people” running for governor that he considers friends, but he quickly brought up his personal history with Abbott, who hired Cruz as solicitor general when Abbott was attorney general. Cruz said Abbott took an “enormous leap of faith” with the hire, and he recalled how Abbott has been “by my side” through his campaigns.

“I can tell you very, very simply, if it were not for Greg Abbott, I would not be in the U.S. Senate,” Cruz said. “So listen, I understand there are a lot of folks here who have concerns, some of the things Greg Abbott’s done. … I understand it, and I think primaries are a healthy thing in politics. But I gotta say, as for me, I’m gonna vote for Greg Abbott.”

Boos erupted in the crowd upon that comment, but Cruz continued, saying, “and to be honest, I think I’d be a disloyal jackass if I didn’t vote for him in our two decades of our working side by side.”

There was also applause when Cruz said he would vote for Abbott, as well as applause when he finished his overall answer.

The negative reactions were not entirely surprising. The True Texas Project regularly hosts Huffines, West and other GOP detractors of Abbott.

After Cruz spoke, True Texas Project CEO Julie McCarty addressed the audience and brought up how a state representative from the area, Giovanni Capriglione, fell out of favor with the group years ago after it initially supported him. She recalled that the group “started holding him accountable” and he “still did not turn his ways.”

“So I would encourage Sen. Cruz to hold Gov. Abbott accountable and then do whatever step comes next,” McCarty said.

Abbott acknowledged Cruz’s reelection support Thursday afternoon, tweeting that he was “proud to have my friend [Cruz] behind me.”

“Friendships are important, but I have plenty of personal friends I would never vote for,” Huffines said in a statement. “This race is about one thing: Greg Abbott’s job performance as governor. And he has failed.”

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