On Tuesday night, Ted Cruz — the Republican nominee for Senate in Texas — was scheduled to get his big moment in Tampa when he addresses the Republican National Convention.
His appearance is part of the GOP effort to attract more Hispanic voters. But ahead of Cruz's big speech, the new leader of the Texas Democratic Party questioned whether Cruz is really Hispanic in an exclusive interview with WFAA.
Republicans need Hispanic voters, and think giving Cruz a prime time slot at the convention can get their attention.
"It is truly an honor to be here with Republican activists from all over Texas and from all over the country, because we are fighting at such a time of incredible importance," Cruz said after speaking with Texas delegates.
Cruz often spoke of his roots while running in the primary. His father, Rafael, was born in Cuba, and fled in 1957 to the United States.
But Gilberto Hinojosa of Brownsville — the new chairman of the Texas Democratic Party — claims Cruz's culture is for convenience.
"This is a guy who didn't claim he was Hispanic any time before he won the primary," Hinojosa said, adding that Cruz was born in Canada (although it is not a requirement to be born in the United States to run for U.S. Senate).
"He's half-Cuban, and he made point of saying he's half-Cuban and his mom was German-American, was born in Canada. Interesting for a 'birther' and a guy supported by 'birthers,'" Hinojosa said, referring to people who question whether President Obama was born in the United States.
The Cruz campaign has previously said Cruz's mother is actually Irish-Italian.
Hinojosa also criticized Cruz for not using his full name, and even questioning Cruz's heritage.
"If I was named 'Rafael Cruz,' I would be proud to use that name," Hinojosa said. "The guy has denied his own Hispanic heritage, if he is a Hispanic."
When asked if he really thinks Cruz is not Hispanic, Hinojosa said: "Well, I mean, you know you are what you believe you are, right?"
As the fight for Texas Hispanic voters literally gets into name-calling, Republicans at the convention say Latinos should like the GOP message of conservative family values, improving the economy, and creating jobs.
"Hispanic Texas, come home to your values and come home to the Republican Party," said State Rep. Aaron Pena (R-Edinburg). "We're all conservatives right now."
Hispanic voters, however, typically strongly favor Democrats, who point out that Cruz is against the DREAM Act and education cuts affecting Hispanic students.
To keep it that they way, they take issue with not only Cruz's positions, but of him as a person.
"It doesn't matter what your last name is," Hinojosa said. "It matters what you do for a community and what you believe in."
The Cruz campaign did not respond to a phone call or e-mail for a response to Hinojosa's assertions.
Cruz faces Democrat Paul Sadler, a former state representative from East Texas, in the November 6 election. Cruz and Sadler agreed last week to appear in the Belo Debate televised statewide on Tuesday, October 2 at 7 p.m.