When Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced his presidential campaign last week at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., he introduced himself to voters in a very personal way.
He talked about being born in Canada to an enterprising Cuban father and a career-driven American mother. When he was small, he said, they had a troubled marriage and lived a “fast life” until his father embraced Jesus Christ.
To be sure, Cruz’s family story is poignant. But his description is incomplete and downplays the complexities of a modern American family.
Both of Cruz’s parents, Rafael Cruz and Eleanor Darragh Wilson, were married to others before they married in 1969.
Cruz, 44, had two half-sisters from his father’s earlier marriage. One, Miriam Cruz, died in 2011 at age 49, in Collingdale, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb. The medical examiner ruled it an accidental death from taking a combination of prescription medicines.
Miriam Cruz also had a series of run-ins with the law in Delaware County, Pa., in the 1990s and 2000s and was incarcerated for a short time for theft in 2004, county records show. Usually represented by public defenders, she was awaiting trial on arrests in 2010 for retail theft, public drunkenness and receiving stolen property when she died.
The other half-sister, Roxana Cruz, 52, is a medical doctor, who practices as an internist in Greenville, Texas, 45 miles northeast of Dallas. Asked if she was available to speak about her brother, her office manager, Cindy Paxton, said, “Dr. Cruz is here to practice medicine and she is here to see and treat her patients. Other than that, she has no comment.”
Cruz does not talk about his sisters publicly. In contrast, he talks frequently about his parents who, despite a reconciliation, divorced in 1997 after Ted Cruz finished law school.
But Cruz appears to have had a relationship with his half-sisters. Miriam Cruz’s son, Joe Maykopet, 30, said in a brief interview that he would see Ted Cruz when he was growing up. Asked what the relationship was like, he said, “I guess like a normal uncle/nephew relationship.” He said they were “close” and that he learned of the presidential announcement “just like everybody else,” from social media.
“My uncle has probably been one of the bigger male figures in my life,” he said.
Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler declined comment, saying, “We’re going to pass on the story.”
Miriam Cruz’s death was certainly untimely.
According to Brian Razzi, chief administrator of the Delaware County Medical Examiner Office, “This is an accident due to mixed prescription drug intoxication.” There was no suicidal history, he said, and she had been prescribed drugs for back pain and anxiety.
Ted Cruz, who is married and has two young daughters, speaks often about the importance of his father in his life. In the Liberty University announcement, he recalled how close he came to living without him.
“Imagine a young married couple, living together in the 1970s, neither one of them has a personal relationship with Jesus. They have a little boy and they are both drinking far too much. They are living a fast life,” said Ted Cruz.
“When I was 3, my father decided to leave my mother and me. We were living in Calgary at the time, he got on a plane and he flew back to Texas, and he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t want to be a father to his 3-year-old son.”
Cruz’s father was invited to a Bible study class at Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston, where he “gave his life to Jesus Christ,” Ted Cruz said.
Ted Cruz said that his father bought a plane ticket and returned to the household.
“There are people who wonder if faith is real. I can tell you, in my family there’s not a second of doubt, because were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ, I would have been saved and I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household.”
With the family intact, Ted Cruz went on to have a stellar education and career path, studying at Princeton University and Harvard Law School and then working in private practice and as solicitor general of Texas before being elected to the Senate in 2012.
Since his presidential announcement, Cruz is ratcheting up his campaigning in the early voting states of Iowa on Thursday and South Carolina on Friday and Saturday.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram research director Cathy Belcher contributed to this report.