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'Camp Cruz': The Surplus Iowa Dorm Filled With Cruz Volunteers

Jerry Dunleavy stands inside his dorm room at "Camp Cruz," on the campus of AIB College of Business in Des Moines. Dunleavy, from Cleveland, quit his job and went to Iowa, leaving everything behind, to campaign for Ted Cruz.
Jerry Dunleavy stands inside his dorm room at "Camp Cruz," on the campus of AIB College of Business in Des Moines. Dunleavy, from Cleveland, quit his job and went to Iowa, leaving everything behind, to campaign for Ted Cruz.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz had a logistical dilemma in Iowa: how to house dozens of volunteers from across the country for a month.

The solution: a three-story unused business college dormitory in Des Moines that sleeps up to 100, also known as "Camp Cruz." The campaign is in the process of opening a second dorm to house even more volunteers.

"We had so many volunteers that wanted to come in from out of state, the idea of trying to find a way to house them in a hotel was going to be cost-prohibitive," said Bryan English, Cruz's Iowa State director.

Cruz, who is locked in a struggle with Donald Trump to win the Iowa caucus, is betting that his campaign's grass-roots volunteers will tip the outcome in the state.

Camp Cruz houses volunteers from Florida, Tennessee and of course Texas, where Cruz is the junior senator.

Jerry Dunleavy was among the pack of tired Cruz volunteers returning to their temporary home on a Monday evening. Dunleavy had never been involved in politics but says Cruz is different — different enough for him to leave everything behind in Cleveland.

"Yeah, quit my job and came out here and nothing lined up after so it's all about helping Cruz win in Iowa and then we go from there," said Dunleavy.

Managing Camp Cruz — think of him as an RA — is the job of Ken Brolin, a Cruz volunteer from Long Island, N.Y. Brolin is up early every morning to bang on the volunteers' doors and get them pumped up.
Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio
Managing Camp Cruz — think of him as an RA — is the job of Ken Brolin, a Cruz volunteer from Long Island, N.Y. Brolin is up early every morning to bang on the volunteers' doors and get them pumped up.

For the role of managing the dorm — or RA if you will — English wanted someone like a camp counselor to pump up Camp Cruz every morning. He found a wiry 64-year-old named Ken Brolin from Long Island, N.Y., who fit the bill.

"I'm banging on the doors at quarter of 8. And I usually scream something like, 'Who's going to be the next president of the United States?!' And you hear the roof lift off," said Brolin. "Then I ask them why are we here and they say, 'To go out and get undecided voters!' And then we open the doors and go get 'em!"

While the dorm may have been built to house students, some of the Cruz volunteers are considerably older.

"I retired in May and I had some time on my hands and I saw the volunteer ... [a] 'be a volunteer for Ted Cruz' message came in the email and I said well, I think I'll go do that," said Alan Drennan of Grapevine, Texas.

The hallways are filled with pictures of Cruz and red, white and blue streamers. Many of the dorm rooms are pretty bare, although Maggie Wright's room has plenty of Cruz signs and a picture of him hugging her taped to the door.

Wright, who is from Texas, supported Cruz as far back as when he was Texas solicitor general and running for the Senate. She says she and other volunteers are "ready — all in, any expense," to make the final push for Cruz in Iowa.

Copyright 2020 Iowa Public Radio News. To see more, visit Iowa Public Radio News.

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