Hundreds lined up outside Mekeel Christian Academy for Sen. Ted Cruz’s event Thursday morning to support, as well as protest, his scheduled appearance.
Paul Forbes, 65, of Colonie, was in good spirits waiting in line on a cloudy morning to enter the rally.
“I want to hear what he [Cruz] has to say, not just the bits and pieces you hear on the news,” Forbes, a registered Republican, said. “I’m not exactly sure if I’m voting for Cruz, but he’s the alternative at the moment. I know I’m not voting for Trump.”
Forbes said when he was a child, his parents took him to John F. Kennedy’s event at the Hotel Van Curler, now Elston Hall of Schenectady County Community College, during his presidential campaign in 1960.
“Nixon also drove through Scotia in fall 1960, but I don’t think there’s ever been a presidential candidate who held an event in Scotia,” Forbes said. “That’s why I didn’t want to miss this. It’s part of history.”
Marco Bianchi of Ballston Spa took his two daughters, Giana, 16, and Maya, 10, out of school to attend Cruz’s local event.
“They begged me to come,” Bianchi said. Registration to the event filled quickly, he said, but the family didn’t give up and eventually got their free tickets.
“We heard it on the radio and really wanted to go,” Maya said with a smile.
“I like what Cruz stands for, I wanted to gain more understanding of what he had to say,” Giana added.
Bianchi said the senator’s event had a homey, grassroots feel.
“That reflects what he and his campaign’s about,” Bianchi said. “Trump definitely does it differently. … I’ll vote for whoever can beat Hillary.”
As attendees were filing in the building, Sal Furnia, of Milford, hung two white sheets that read phrases like “Cruz = Sleaze” and “Go home lyin’ Ted” in large, bold letters.
Furnia and Pastor William Mayhew, of Faith Bible Chapel in Millerton, got into a heated debate over Cruz’s trustworthiness, which drew several members of the media. A reporter from Fox News stepped in for comments from the forcefully-speaking pair.
“Cruz collects more money than Kasich and Trump combined,” Furnia said. “He preaches taking down Washington political correctness, but he’s bought by huge campaign donors he’ll have to pay back. … Cruz is a hypocrite.”
“This is my perception of Ted Cruz: He frightens me, and is a dangerous man,” Karen English, from West Charlton, said with her homemade sign that grouped the senator with “bigots” and “racists.”
“I was disgusted and embarrassed when I found out he was coming here to Scotia — I live right down the street,” Brigid Meyer said. “If Trump gets elected president, I’ll be moving to Ireland.”
Some came to protest the event to show support for GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.
One woman marched up and down in front of the school with her Saint Bernard, which was sporting a “VOTE TRUMP” banner draped over its back.
Colleen Peltz of Scotia had a sign telling voters to “beat Hillary, send her home.”
“I support Trump — I think we need to move forward,” Peltz said. “I feel Trump is going to get the country back on its feet.”
“Trump has been my candidate for years,” Tom Kennedy of Schenectady said while proudly displaying his “I’m not a liberal! Vote Trump,” sign. “In the Northeast, we’ve lost so many manufacturing jobs, we need someone who will be a good job creator, and Trump is a proven one.”
If Cruz gets the nomination, Kennedy said he’d write Trump’s name in.
“I don’t trust Cruz, every American should be concerned about a one-term senator like Obama was,” he said. “There’s no proven leadership.”
Even after the event was over, peaceful protestors lingered holding their signs supporting Trump and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
Caitlin Krauser, 23, of Glenville, held a Sanders sign while her friend Travis Bailor, 23, of Scotia, held a cardboard sign etched with the phrase “New York Values” in permanent marker.
“I have a degree in secondary education, and Bernie is the only candidate, I feel, that strongly cares about our education system,” Krauser said.
Bailor said his sign was a reference to negative comments Cruz made in January about the state’s values.
“Those statements offended me, and I’m not offended easily,” Bailor said. “Washington is so corrupt, it’s past corrupt. Trump is disruptive, and someone disruptive is what we need.”
Friends since they were children, Krauser and Bailor said they enjoy having a political discourse about their opposing views, but value keeping it civil.
“We’re all Americans, we still need to unite,” Krauser said holding her Sanders sign next to Bailor’s. “I listen to why he supports what he does and his political views. It’s the healthy thing to do.
“People need to talk more, and that’s what we wanted to do today -— we wanted to start a discussion.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, firstname.lastname@example.org or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.