A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Trump Overstates Cruz Challenges


Donald Trump claims Illinois is “very seriously” looking at Sen. Ted Cruz’s eligibility to run for president and “may not even let him run.” That’s misleading. Illinois is following routine procedures for resolving ballot challenges against five presidential candidates, including Cruz.

Trump made his claim on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” part of his ongoing campaign to cast doubt on Cruz’s eligibility to run for president. Cruz was born in Canada, but, as we have written before, he most likely qualifies to run because his mother was a U.S. citizen when he was born.

Trump, Jan. 24: I guess you probably heard last night Illinois is looking at it very seriously. They may not even let him run in Illinois. They feel strongly about it. But other states are looking at it very seriously. There’s a real question as to whether or not Ted Cruz is allowed to run for president.

Trump, a construction and casino mogul, is overplaying his hand. It is not unusual for candidates to have their nominating papers challenged.

The fact is, the Illinois Board of Elections has received objections regarding five major presidential candidates, and it is following its routine procedure for resolving petition challenges. In addition to Cruz, Illinois has received objections regarding the nominating papers filed by Sens. Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Cruz’s case gained some national attention recently because the conservative website WND.com interviewed Lawrence Joyce, a licensed attorney who makes his living as a pharmacist and says he supports Ben Carson for president. Joyce makes the claim that Cruz is not a “natural born citizen,” a requirement to be president.

Joyce is one of two people who filed an objection against Cruz’s candidacy. The other is William K. Graham, who, in addition to challenging Cruz, is also challenging Rubio, who was born in the U.S. to parents who were not U.S. citizens at the time.

Jim Tenuto was appointed the hearing officer to handle the objections filed against Cruz and Rubio. Philip Krasny will oversee the objection filed against Clinton, and Barbara Goodman will handle the cases involving Sanders and O’Malley, according to the board. (See the Jan. 14 letter regarding to appointment of hearing officers on page 38.)

Tenuto, the assistant executive director of the board, said none of the five challenges have been resolved, according to a Jan. 23 article in the News-Gazette. “We just called the cases on Wednesday and they’re looking at holding a meeting on February 11, possibly, to see if we can resolve as many as possible,” Tenuto told the paper. As a result, early voting may not start as scheduled on Feb. 4, the paper said.

Trump also says that “other states are looking at it [Cruz’s eligibility] very seriously,” but as in Illinois we found that challenges to Cruz’s candidacy are following the standard procedures:

Cruz isn’t the first to face questions about his eligibility. As we have written before, Sen. John McCain was born to U.S. citizens in the Panama Canal Zone, and Sen. Barry Goldwater was born to U.S. citizens in Arizona before it was a state. Both became their party’s nominees.

How it plays out for Cruz remains to be seen. But Trump exaggerates when he says that Illinois is looking “very seriously” at Cruz’s eligibility, “feel very strongly about it,” and “may not even let him run in Illinois.” The Illinois election officials are following the standard procedures to ballot challenges, just as they are doing for Rubio, O’Malley, Sanders and Clinton.

— Eugene Kiely, with Chloe Nurik