Republican Sen. Ted Cruz tours Port of Corpus Christi

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is a longtime resident of Houston.

One of Texas' two senators paid a visit to the Sparkling City on the Bay this week.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday visited the city and the Port of Corpus Christi to meet with local officials, capping off his trip with a boat tour of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.

After exiting the boat to enter Solomon P. Ortiz International Center, the three-term Republican stood alongside the port's chief executive officer, Sean Strawbridge, to give a short news conference about the trip and answer questions from local media.

Growth of city, port

A longtime Houston resident, Cruz said he was happy to be in the "vibrant and growing" Coastal Bend, which he said has seen tremendous growth and now plays a vital role in the nation's energy market.

"When I was a kid, Corpus was a much quieter town. It was a smaller town. It was a beautiful coastal resort. But today, Corpus Christi is a booming energy metropolis," he said. "Today, Corpus Christi has infused that beachside resort with a whole lot of Midland, Texas, (and) with a whole lot of entrepreneurs and people who are working good, high-paying jobs who are providing for their families."

The port, which Cruz said he has advocated on behalf of during his 10 years in office, is a primary driver of that expansion as a major gateway for crude exports in the country. He said his advocacy, in part, played a role in the Biden administration earmarking $157 million to finish the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project, which seeks to widen and dredge the channel to a depth of 54 feet to accommodate larger vessels capable of carrying a greater amount and wider variety of goods.

That came, he said, after the Biden administration "zeroed out" funding for seaports in Texas, a sentiment echoed by Strawbridge in March before the unveiling of the presidential budget proposal.

Cruz said Corpus Christi's port and his staff work "hand in hand" to address the port's needs and get funding for projects with as little "bureaucratic red tape" as possible. In the future, Cruz said Texas and its ports could make for excellent export hubs for selling "clean hydrogen" to global markets — an effort for which the port hired a former U.S. congressman as a lobbyist in hopes of getting federal funding.

"We're also seeing expansions into new areas such as hydrogen, which I think is an exciting area where Texas is leading the way," he said.

New Harbor Bridge construction

Speaking with local media, Cruz answered questions about the Texas Department of Transportation's announcement last month to pause construction on the new Harbor Bridge, the port's role during the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the FBI raiding former president Donald Trump's Palm Beach estate.

Cruz characterized the pause to part of the Harbor Bridge construction as "frustrating" but said he understood the necessity to ensure the design is structurally sound and safe. He echoed state lawmakers' statements in South Texas last month that parties need to find concurrence on the design and finish the already delayed project.

"It's maddening to look at the empty concrete pylons and see it just halted construction. I know this has been a long and painful process of multiple designs that were initially deemed safe and then subsequently not deemed safe," Cruz said, stressing the higher vertical clearance of the new bridge will allow larger vessels to travel through the channel. "I am hopeful that they'll resolve the safety issues quickly, and get it fixed and get it built."

According to a memo lawmakers pressed TxDOT to release last week, TxDOT and an independent engineering firm disagree with the project's developer, Flatiron/Dragados, and its design firm over the proposed design for the cable-stayed portion of the bridge. Whether and when the parties will resolve the dispute and to what degree the pause will affect the bridge's completion set for 2024 remains to be seen.

FBI raid of Trump’s Florida home

Asked about an FBI raid of Trump's private club and residence, Mar-a-Lago, Cruz characterized the operation as politically motivated persecution and a symptom of Biden's "politicization of the U.S. Department of Justice."

Echoing many of his Republican colleagues, Cruz called for an investigation into the matter, saying, "I believe Congress should hold hearings, we should have subpoenas, and we should examine … the basis for this extraordinary invocation of federal power against President Biden's chief political rival."

More:Here's why Port of Corpus Christi CEO Sean Strawbridge's pay has nearly doubled since 2018

‘Political shift’ in South Texas

After answering the last question from local media, Cruz took a moment to express his hopes that Republicans would take control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate after the November midterms, a feat he said is possible as a result of a perceived "political shift" in South Texas.

Cruz specifically noted the upset victory of Mayra Flores during a special election earlier this year for the 34th Congressional District of Texas, a longtime-blue seat held by former Democratic congressman Filemon Vela, of Brownsville. Vela left his position to join a prominent lobbying firm, which the Port of Corpus Christi has retained.

Flores, who made history as the first Mexican-born woman in Congress, faces a more challenging election in a bluer district in the November midterms.

After the news conference, Strawbridge thanked Cruz for visiting the port.

"We've come a long way, but we've got a lot more work to do," Strawbridge said. "We certainly look forward to following in line with your leadership as we go forward and make this state continue to be the most business-friendly state and union."

This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz tours Port of Corpus Christi