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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz raises money and woos supporters in Orange County

 (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came in second in the race for the GOP presidential nomination last year, is raising money and courting prominent Republicans in Orange County on Thursday as he prepares for a reelection campaign in 2018.

A fundraiser for Cruz will be hosted Thursday evening by Palmer Luckey, a Long Beach native who became one of the nation’s wealthiest young entrepreneurs by creating a virtual-reality headset. Attendees are being asked to contribute up to $2,700 to Cruz’s reelection bid to attend a reception at an undisclosed location.

Earlier in the day, Cruz mingled with a few dozen prominent Republicans and supporters of his unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid. The event took place at the Newport Beach law firm of Michael McClellan, Cruz’s Orange County finance chairman and one of his top dozen bundlers in the nation.

Other attendees included Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel; former state GOP chairman Michael Schroeder, who served as a California co-chairman for Cruz’s presidential campaign; and conservative blogger Jon Fleischman.

Fleischman described Cruz as “sharp and focused” as he discussed possible options to repealing and replacing Obamacare after the failure of President Trump’s first attempt.

“While everyone ... is relieved Hillary lost, no doubt everyone wishes Cruz was in the White House right now,” Fleischman said.

The campaign between Trump and Cruz was brutally ugly. Trump labeled Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” insulted his wife’s looks, and falsely insinuated that his father was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. Cruz responded by calling Trump “utterly amoral,” a “pathological liar,” “a serial philanderer” and a “narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.”

The tension came to a head at the Republican National Convention. Cruz, speaking in prime time, pointedly refused to endorse Trump. In response, Trump threatened to launch a super PAC to take down the Texas senator when he ran for reelection.

Cruz eventually endorsed Trump and the two men have appeared to get along since.

Cruz is facing a challenge from Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso. A Texas Lyceum poll released Wednesday showed them tied, with a large number of undecided voters. But political observers were skeptical — no Democrat has won statewide office in Texas in more than two decades.

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