Political Insider

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The two Georgians behind Ted Cruz's presidential run

You'll be hearing a lot today about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's formal announcement for president. But as his campaign evolves, keep a close eye on the two metro Atlantans who are instrumental in the tea party favorite's White House bid.

The first is David Panton, an Atlanta investment fund whiz and Rhodes scholar who is a longtime friend of Cruz. The Dallas Morning News describes him as "Cruz’s Princeton debate partner, Harvard law school classmate and best man." He's also the financial power behind a super PAC supporting the 44-year-old's candidacy.

"I am thrilled that Ted may announce his bid for the presidency," Panton said in an email late Sunday. "America needs strong, principled leadership that Ted provides. I look forward to supporting him and am confident he will make an exceptional president."

The second is Maria Strollo Zack, who leads that aforementioned PAC, which is called Stand for Principle. Zack is a lobbyist and consultant based in Cumming who is a longtime GOP activist with deep roots in the party.

Zack made sure she was on hand last week when Jeb Bush visited the statehouse, comparing the former Florida governor to Mitt Romney and predicting a "very difficult" road ahead for him. She said by phone late Sunday she was thrilled to hear Cruz was preparing a campaign.

"He should run," she said. "And I think he'll make an excellent president."

Cruz has also visited Georgia several times in the last year to cultivate support, including a campaign swing for Gov. Nathan Deal and David Perdue days before the election. During one trip to a north Georgia church, he riled up the crowd with red-meat attacks on the Democratic candidates.

“Here in Georgia, we’ve got on the ballot Jimmy Carter and Sam Nunn,” he said during that late October swing. “It’s like ‘That 70’s Show.'”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.