HOOKSETT, N.H. (AP) – Republican Ted Cruz shared the deeply personal story of his sister's overdose death as he campaigned across New Hampshire on Thursday, describing "an epidemic" of addiction that has destroyed lives in his family and across the nation.
Cruz then suggested his powers as president would be limited to address the issue.
"It's not going to be the government that solves this," the Texas senator said. "People have to make personal transformations."
Cruz said the federal government's role in addressing the issue should be focused on a pillar of his campaign: border security. His fiery rhetoric against illegal immigration has largely defined his presidential campaign. And it played a central role in his Thursday remarks at a Hooksett, N.H. forum on addiction.
"The solution to this is going to come at the state and local level. It's going to come from the church, it's going to come from charities, it's going to come from friends and families and loved ones stepping forward and saying, 'We are here for you,'" Cruz said.
"But it's also going to come from a federal government that actually does its job and secures the border. And I will tell you this, when I'm elected president, you have my solemn commitment: we will secure the borders. And we will end this plague of rampant drugs flooding into this country and destroying lives all across this nation."
The debate over illegal immigration and drug addiction has played a central role in the months leading up to New Hampshire's Feb. 9 primary election. Yet few candidates have linked the issues to the same degree Cruz did on Thursday.
He spent the first 18 minutes of his remarks solemnly describing his family's personal struggle with addiction and alcoholism.
Cruz described his father as "a drunk" who ultimately stopped drinking after embracing Christian values. His older sister, Miriam Cruz, died of a drug overdose in 2011, after years of family efforts to get her on the right track.
Cruz recalled driving with his father to a Philadelphia crack house at one point to help rescue his sister. They spent hours trying to "pull her back" inside a nearby Denny's. "But she wouldn't listen," Cruz said.
"Sometimes people make decisions bound and determined to destroy themselves," he said.