The Latest: Cruz rides campaign rollercoaster

Donald Trump
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Campaign 2016 ahead of the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday and the New York State primaries April 19 (All times Eastern Daylight Time):

5:21 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz likes to talk in his stump speech about how the campaign has been a roller coaster.

For Cruz on Wednesday the analogy became reality.

Cruz and some campaign aides took a ride on the Ravine Flyer II, a hybrid wooden roller coaster located at an amusement park in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Cruz posted video of his ride on Twitter, and then referred to it during his rally in the park in the shadow of the roller coaster.

He says the ride was “awesome” and that seeing Lake Erie was the top of one hill was “breathtaking.”

Cruz says, “My travel aide, I thought he was going to scream like a girl, but he didn’t.”

Cruz jokes that if that had happened, the video would have been on every computer screen in America.

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5:08 p.m.

Republican Donald Trump is further professionalizing his campaign operation with another new hire as he works to try to lock down his party’s nomination.

Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski confirms that strategist Rick Wiley will serve as the campaign’s new national political director.

The campaign last week announced another experienced hand, Paul Manafort, would be serving as convention manager.

Wiley previously served as campaign manager for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and has held top positions with the Republican National Committee, with which Trump has been sparring.

Trump says in a statement that Wiley brings decades of experience and deep ties to political leaders.

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2:44 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is defending his decision to leave the campaign trail to attend a Vatican conference on the economy days before next Tuesday’s New York presidential primary.

He says the chance to speak at the Rome event was the opportunity of a lifetime and he’d be kicking himself later if he refused.

Sanders has a 10-minute speaking slot Friday at the event organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The academy is like a think-tank for the Vatican.

The chancellor for the academy has said he invited the Democratic Vermont senator because he has invoked Pope Francis’ teaching on the campaign trail when other candidates hadn’t.

Sanders says he will speak at the conference about how greed is destroying people and the environment. The pope is not expected to attend the event.

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12:38 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says she’s disappointed that negotiations have broken down between Verizon and 39,000 workers on the East Coast who walked off the job Wednesday over job security and pensions.

Deep in competition with Sanders for support from labor, Clinton is siding with the employees and slamming Verizon for trying to “outsource more and more jobs.”

That, she says in a statement, would mean “walking away from… the workers who install and repair our phone and cable service, and who respond to customer needs day and night.” She added that Verizon should return to negotiations.

Sanders walked the picket line on Wednesday.

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12:00 p.m.

In Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders joined striking union workers on a picket line outside a Verizon office. He was showing solidarity with 39,000 workers on the East Coast who walked off the job earlier Wednesday.

Sanders said the workers were displaying courage for standing up against the telecommunications giant. “I know your families are going to pay a price,” he bellowed into a microphone at a raucous gathering.

The Vermont senator thanked the workers “on behalf of every worker in America who is facing the same kind of pressure.”

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