The Latest: Cruz defends 'deputy delegate' fundraiser

WASHINGTON – The Latest on Campaign 2016 ahead of the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday and the New York State primaries April 19 (all times Eastern Daylight Time):

9:30 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is defending a fundraising email that promises to make people who donate $35 “deputy delegates.”

Cruz joked about the email during a live CNN town hall Wednesday in New York City. He was asked whether it misled donors into thinking they would have some influence over the Republican Party convention, where delegates will determine the GOP presidential nominee.

The email says, “If you are ready to help Senator Cruz secure the nomination, becoming a Deputy Delegate is just for you!”

Cruz compared making his donors deputy delegates to giving children “deputy sheriff” badges. He says, “Those things are fun.”

When pressed, Cruz says it was obviously a plea for donations and not a promise to give contributors any power over the nominating process.


9:20 p.m.

A Donald Trump rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, drew thousands to a downtown convention centre Wednesday evening — as well as hundreds of protesters who gathered outside the venue, chanting and waving signs.

As Trump’s supporters filed out at the end of the rally, the two sides engaged in heated verbal confrontations, with supporters chanting “USA!” and “Build that wall!” and protesters shouting profanities. Police in riot gear separated the sides.

Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Emily Schaffer said there were some minor injuries, including to police officers, but she did not have additional details.

Among those hurt was an 18-year-old Trump supporter who was observed being led to an emergency medical services van and receiving treatment after he was pepper-sprayed in the face by a man his friends identified as a protester.


9:15 p.m.

Ted Cruz says he is looking at possible running mates and says “someone would be a fool” to not seriously consider Marco Rubio.

Cruz had nothing but nice things to say about his former presidential rival during a CNN town hall broadcast live Wednesday night from New York City.

Cruz says he thinks very highly of Rubio, calling him an “amazing communicator” who ran a race that inspired millions, including him. Cruz says, “I think the world of Marco.”

Cruz also calls the Florida senator “a terrific person to consider for vice-president.”

Rubio secured 171 delegates before he dropped out of the race. Donald Trump has 743 while Cruz has 545.

Rubio has not endorsed anyone since he dropped out.


8:40 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is staging a large rally with thousands of supporters in New York City’s Washington Square Park in a show of force before the state’s presidential primary.

Sanders says looking at his “unbelievable crowd” makes him believe “we’re going to win here in New York.”

Celebrities at the event near the campus of New York University include actor Tim Robbins and director Spike Lee.

Sanders says his campaign is about the notion that real change can only come from the bottom up, not the top down.

He notes that rival Hillary Clinton has the support of several super PACs, drawing boos at the mention of her name.

New York holds its primary next Tuesday.


8:30 p.m.

Hillary Clinton is keeping her eye on the general election despite a heated primary race, taking shots at Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at a rally in the Bronx Wednesday night.

Clinton did not mention Democratic rival Bernie Sanders during an appearance before about 1,300 cheering supporters packed into a community centre.

Instead, she said Trump “wants us to build walls, I want us to build bridges.”

She also referenced Cruz’s criticism of “New York values,” saying, “I think New York values are at the core of American values.”

Clinton spoke for roughly 15 minutes, stressing her support for the Bronx and her commitment to improving education, boosting wages and creating jobs. She repeated her promise to fight for tougher gun laws and offered support for Puerto Rico.


6:31 p.m.

A handful of former contestants on Donald Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice” say he’s not worthy of becoming president.

Half-a-dozen of the show’s past contestants, including Season 4 winner Randal Pinkett and Season 1 runner-up Kwame Jackson are planning a press conference Friday in New York to denounce the GOP front-runner’s bid ahead of the state’s April 19 primary.

In statements, the contestants slam Trump’s rhetoric as divisive and filled with hate.

Pinkett says that after having the opportunity to work with Trump and observing the campaign, “we do not believe he is worthy of becoming President of the United States.”


5:54 p.m.

Striking communications workers are getting a lot of attention from Democratic presidential candidates ahead of the critical New York State primary.

Hours after Bernie Sanders joined a picket line of Verizon workers in Brooklyn, Hillary Clinton met striking communications workers outside a Verizon store in midtown Manhattan Wednesday.

Clinton told a reporter from a local cable news channel that Verizon needs to “engage in real negotiation” and must “come to the table and reach an agreement.”

Verizon workers walked off the job across the east coast earlier in the day after contract negotiations broke down. About 100 workers chanted slogans like “what’s disgusting, union busting” and held signs that read “CWA on Strike.”

Communications Workers of America has endorsed Sanders.

Dennis Trainor, vice-president of the union’s district that includes New York, says that if Sanders doesn’t win, “We’re going to be with Hillary.”


5:21 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz likes to talk in his stump speech about how the campaign has been a roller coaster.

For Cruz on Wednesday the analogy became reality.

Cruz and some campaign aides took a ride on the Ravine Flyer II, a hybrid wooden roller coaster located at an amusement park in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Cruz posted video of his ride on Twitter, and then referred to it during his rally in the park in the shadow of the roller coaster.

He says the ride was “awesome” and that seeing Lake Erie was the top of one hill was “breathtaking.”

Cruz says, “My travel aide, I thought he was going to scream like a girl, but he didn’t.”

Cruz jokes that if that had happened, the video would have been on every computer screen in America.


5:08 p.m.

Republican Donald Trump is further professionalizing his campaign operation with another new hire as he works to try to lock down his party’s nomination.

Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski confirms that strategist Rick Wiley will serve as the campaign’s new national political director.

The campaign last week announced another experienced hand, Paul Manafort, would be serving as convention manager.

Wiley previously served as campaign manager for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and has held top positions with the Republican National Committee, with which Trump has been sparring.

Trump says in a statement that Wiley brings decades of experience and deep ties to political leaders.


2:44 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is defending his decision to leave the campaign trail to attend a Vatican conference on the economy days before next Tuesday’s New York presidential primary.

He says the chance to speak at the Rome event was the opportunity of a lifetime and he’d be kicking himself later if he refused.

Sanders has a 10-minute speaking slot Friday at the event organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The academy is like a think-tank for the Vatican.

The chancellor for the academy has said he invited the Democratic Vermont senator because he has invoked Pope Francis’ teaching on the campaign trail when other candidates hadn’t.

Sanders says he will speak at the conference about how greed is destroying people and the environment. The pope is not expected to attend the event.


12:38 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says she’s disappointed that negotiations have broken down between Verizon and 39,000 workers on the East Coast who walked off the job Wednesday over job security and pensions.

Deep in competition with Sanders for support from labour, Clinton is siding with the employees and slamming Verizon for trying to “outsource more and more jobs.”

That, she says in a statement, would mean “walking away from… the workers who install and repair our phone and cable service, and who respond to customer needs day and night.” She added that Verizon should return to negotiations.

Sanders walked the picket line on Wednesday.


12:00 p.m.

In Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders joined striking union workers on a picket line outside a Verizon office. He was showing solidarity with 39,000 workers on the East Coast who walked off the job earlier Wednesday.

Sanders said the workers were displaying courage for standing up against the telecommunications giant. “I know your families are going to pay a price,” he bellowed into a microphone at a raucous gathering.

The Vermont senator thanked the workers “on behalf of every worker in America who is facing the same kind of pressure.”