John Egan

US Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, has certainly made a big splash in the political pool since taking office in January. You probably heard about his recent 21-hour Senate filibuster in opposition to the Obamacare health care law. But how much do you really know about the junior senator from the Lone Star State?

Here are 21 facts about Cruz, a rising star among tea party conservatives and a potential presidential contender in 2016.

1. A recent survey by Public Policy Polling puts Cruz in the lead among would-be Republican presidential candidates. Twenty percent of Republican voters threw their support behind Cruz, just ahead of Sen. Rand Paul (17 percent).

2. Cruz had never held elective office before winning his Senate seat in 2012.

3. Cruz was the first Latino to be elected to the Senate from Texas.

4. He wants to do away with the federal government’s tax collection agency. “I think we ought to abolish the IRS and instead move to a simple flat tax where the average American can fill out taxes on a postcard,” Cruz told Fox News.

5. Cruz fought the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. The senator criticized Hagel’s “disturbing record on foreign policy” and said he lacked “the trust and confidence” required to lead the nation’s military.

6. Cruz avidly supports gun rights guaranteed by the Constitution’s Second Amendment. “Congress should not create new legislation restricting the rights of law-abiding Americans,” he said.

7. Cruz opposes the federal DREAM Act, which would pave the way for citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants.

8. Two tea party groups — the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund — are the senator’s two biggest campaign contributors. The top corporate donor is Woodforest National Bank, based in The Woodlands, a Houston suburb.

9. Cruz’s average net worth has been pegged at more than $1.6 million.

10. From 2003 to 2008, Cruz was solicitor general of Texas, the state’s chief lawyer in cases presented before the US Supreme Court.

11. Cruz’s Cuba-born father, Rafael, is a preacher with Purifying Fire Ministries, based in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton.

12. The senator is a Southern Baptist.

13. Cruz was born on Dec. 22, 1970, in Calgary, Canada. Because he was born in Calgary, Cruz holds Canadian citizenship. Since his mother, Eleanor, was born in the US, Cruz also holds US citizenship. Cruz has said he will renounce his Canadian citizenship.

14. The senator’s full name is Rafael Edward Cruz.

15. From 2004 to 2009, he taught US Supreme Court litigation as an adjunct law professor at the University of Texas.

16. Cruz earned degrees from two Ivy League universities — Princeton and Harvard. Growing up, “I don’t think I knew anyone who had ever gone to an Ivy League college,” he told The Weekly Standard.

17. At Princeton, Cruz and classmate David Panton won the American Parliamentary Debate Association national championship, and Cruz was named Speaker of the Year.

18. After earning his law degree from Harvard, Cruz clerked for then-US Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

19. Cruz spent two years as a lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission during the George W. Bush administration. He had worked on Bush’s 2000 campaign for the White House.

20. Cruz’s wife, Heidi, is a regional vice president at Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs (which is one of the senator’s largest campaign donors). They live in Houston with their two daughters, Caroline and Catherine.

21. His favorite footwear is a pair of black ostrich-skin boots.