Tribune staff reports
Tony Moravec, owner of Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor at 329 Washington St. in downtown Columbus, said he hasn’t decided which Republican presidential candidate he will vote for. But when asked if his restaurant would host an event for GOP candidate Ted Cruz, Moravec said he would gladly oblige.
“I’m a supporter of Republicans in general. I lean Republican. When somebody asks me to do something for the Republican Party, I try to accept,” Moravec said.
Bartholomew County Republican Party Chairwoman Barb Hackman said she received a call Friday from Cruz’s campaign about the desire to have a meet-and-greet event in Columbus. She said a person with his campaign who knew of Columbus preferred Zaharakos as the location.
“He said Zaharakos is known throughout the state and is a historic place,” Hackman said.
She called Moravec on Saturday morning about the request. Originally, the event was to be Thursday, but Hackman said she received a call Sunday evening that it had been rescheduled for Monday afternoon.
Moravec said he called in a few extra restaurant staffers and four or five administrative employees from his other businesses, Blairex Laboratories and Applied Laboratories, to help with a crowd expected to reach about 300 people.
Cruz was the first presidential candidate that Zaharakos hosted, Moravec said. However, it did host a stop by Republican Mike Pence — a Columbus native — during his successful 2012 campaign for governor.
Spick and span
Seth Roberts continued with spring cleaning for Zaharakos on Monday morning, something that was planned even before Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced plans to include Columbus among his campaign stops.Roberts was perched on a tall ladder soaping windows at the popular downtown destination. Woodwork at the front of the building had already been cleaned.
Blue first, then red
Debra Slone leaned back to survey her handiwork and asked, does the blue go first and then red? Or the other way?
Slone, who does design work for Zaharakos, was using chalk to create a welcome for Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz in the wooden frame that sits outside the restaurant doors just after 11 a.m. Monday. She decided to incorporate his slogan “TrusTED” with the words “Welcome Ted Cruz” and some stars across the bottom.
Welcome to the area
Tony Moravec, Zaharakos owner, was outside the establishment at 11 a.m., watching workers put last-minute polish on the windows and doors and greeting employees as they entered. Mark and Gail Miller, Columbus, were among the first customers to arrive when Zaharakos opened, hoping to be in place for the planned Ted Cruz visit in the early afternoon. Gail Miller said while the couple expect to vote Republican, they are still undecided on their candidate choice, and said, “We’re not real happy at this point.” But Mark Miller said one bright spot was that the GOP was down from the 17 choices that were on the ballot earlier.Moraveck said he wanted to be in place to greet people and help with the crowd if needed. “I just want to make sure we have enough people and everyone feels comfortable and feels welcomed,” he said.
Zaharakos employee Wilma Hare has worked at the iconic soda fountain since 2009 and predicted the afternoon would be quite busy with the visit of GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz.She said a family member had told her that if she got a chance to speak to the candidate, instead of taking his order she should give the candidate an order about what is needed in our country — more money for schools and more benefits for the military, police and firefighters. “And more money for schools,” she repeated.
Day 5 on the job
Michael Villa, 19, who lives in Jennings County, was walking briskly to Zaharakos at about 11:30 a.m. Monday, heading in on his fifth day of employment there. “I just got called in,” he said.He learned on the way that GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz would be among hundreds expected Monday afternoon for a candidate meet-and-greet, and said he was excited to be working during the event.
When asked what he might say to the candidate if he was the assigned server, he said he would tell the candidate “Good luck” and congratulations.
Asking someone to prom can be a nerve-wracking task, but with the help of presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, Columbus North High School senior Chloe Jorgensen knew that her boyfriend could never say no to her prom-posal.Amid the various signs in support of and in protest against Cruz that residents brought to Zaharakos on Monday, Jorgensen’s sign had a less political message. In handwritten letters, she asked a simple question — “Dontae, will you CRUZ to prom with me?”
When Cruz entered the ice cream parlor, the Republican made eye contact with Jorgensen and walked over to shake her hand, opening the door for her to enlist his help in asking her boyfriend, Dontae, to prom.
“It was like destiny,” Jorgensen said. “I was really nervous to talk to him.”
The presidential candidate readily agreed to come to Jorgensen’s aid, and together the duo got the job done. When he saw the effort she put into her unique prom-posal, Jorgensen said her boyfriend gave her the answer she was hoping to hear.
“He said yes,” she said.
While the majority of the crowd of about 300 people who turned out for Ted Cruz’s visit to Columbus Monday cheered on the presidential candidate, a few local residents stood against the Texas senator.Leah Jackman-Wheitner and her daughter, Lexi Jackman-Wheitner, were two of about a dozen protesters who stood outside of Zaharakos to speak out against Cruz’s campaign promises.
With protest signs sharing messages such as “Hoosiers against hate,” the Jackman-Wheitners and others voiced their concerns of Cruz’s conservative beliefs they say will move the country backward, not forward.
A social and fiscal conservative, Cruz has publicly and frequently spoken in favor of traditional marriage and pro-life policies.
While that message of conservatism stands for the promise of a better America to supporters of the senator’s presidential campaign, the Jackman-Wheitners perceive that message as one of fear and hate.
“He’s not to be trusted,” Lexi Jackman-Wheitner said. “He does not respect women’s bodies. He does not respect the lesbian, gay, bisexual movement. He supports discrimination.”
Homeschool field trips
Ted Cruz’s visit to Columbus on Monday turned into a real-life government lesson for a few local students.While Sunny Muck normally home-schools her three daughters — Emily, 16, Abby, 13 and Alison, 12 — in Edinburgh, she decided to take Monday’s classes on the road when she heard that the Texas senator would be making a campaign stop at Zaharakos.
Wendy Sheard, Columbus, had a similar thought when she chose to bring her daughters — Lora, 15, and Faith, 12 — to Zaharakos with signs reading, “This home-schooled family is voting for Ted Cruz.”
Both the Mucks and the Sheards said they support Cruz because of his conservative values and his self-professed Christian faith.
The Sheard family even got the chance to speak with the Texas senator as he greeted guests in Zaharakos and express their support for him in person.
Although none of the students will be old enough to vote in this year’s elections, their mothers said children are never too young to learn how the United States political system works.
Monday’s field trip to Zaharakos taught thee girls more than any textbook ever could, Wendy Sheard said.
“They’re learning government first-hand,” she said.
In the spotlight again
The last time a presidential candidate visited Columbus was April 2008, when then-Democratic candidate and now President Barack Obama spoke at Columbus East High School, several weeks before Indiana’s primary election.That same month, former President Bill Clinton came to Columbus to campaign for his wife and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, speaking at Fire Station 2, and their daughter Chelsea Clinton campaigned for her mother on the steps of Columbus City Hall.
Staff members of The Republic, a sister paper of The Tribune, Kirk Johannesen, Julie McClure, Olivia Covington and Mark Webber contributed to this notebook.