NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Wednesday again defended his comment about “New York values” from a debate back in the winter, saying it was about liberal policies hurting the state.

During the Republican presidential debate in January, Cruz said Republican rival Donald Trump embodied “New York values,” and went on to say, “the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage, focus around money and the media.”

Cruz was taken to task personally by Trump for the remark at the time, as well as by New York politicians from both sides of the aisle. But appearing with Anderson Cooper alongside his wife, Heidi, Cruz said one New York state lawmaker understood his point.

He recalled meeting with state Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-The Bronx, in a meeting with African-American and Latino pastors in the Bronx last week.

“He explained to me in Spanish – he brought up the New York values. He said, ‘I know exactly what you mean by New York values,’ because he said, ‘I’m a Democrat’ – Senator Diaz – ‘and my Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, said, ‘If you’re pro-life, if you believe in traditional marriage, if you believe in the Second Amendment, you have no place in the state of New York,” Cruz said. “And Senator Diaz was offended by that.”

Cruz also slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio in the CNN town hall, accusing him of taking the side of criminals over police officers.

Cruz referenced a controversy in late 2014, when Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Pat Lynch and other critics accused de Blasio of taking the side of protesters after a grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the police-involved death of Eric Garner. Thousands of officers went on to turn their backs on the mayor at the funerals of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were shot and killed in an ambush attack in Brooklyn.

“That moment when the brave men and women and blue stood up and turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio, cops across this country and Americans across this country cheered,” he said.

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But Cruz said his remarks did not mean he thought ill of New York City.

“I look forward to representing the people of New York, to working to earn the votes of the people of New York, and to fighting for the hardworking, gritty – New York is an immigrant city. It is a gritty city. Both Heidi and I have lived in New York. It’s a city that attracts the best and the brightest, and people that want to conquer the world. That can-do spirit we need more of in America,” Cruz said. “But the liberal policies of Democrats that are hurting New Yorkers, we need a lot less of.”

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Cruz also took Trump to task for criticizing his “New York values” remarks.

“Donald immediately said, ‘You’re attacking police and firefighters of 9/11,’ which was utterly absurd,” Cruz said.

Trump, who is comfortably ahead in the Republican primary polls in New York and other northeastern states, rallied supporters in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. He talked about a return to heavy industry.

“Steel — we’re bringing it back, and I said it. Coal, clean coal, clean coal – we’re bringing it back big-league,” Trump said.

Trump also took umbrage to claims that he is faltering up against Cruz, calling the Republican system “rigged.” While offering no praise to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Trump did claim that Sanders was also being misrepresented when it came to his success rate.

“Whether you like Bernie Sanders or not – I happen to think he’s terrible, but that’s OK. But whether you like him or not… you turn on television every week: ‘Bernie Sanders wins. Bernie Sanders wins.’ Next week: ‘Bernie Sanders wins.’ He wins every weekend,” Trump said. “And then you listen to the pundits, (who say), ‘But he can’t win.’ And you say, ‘What’s going on?’ And I say, ‘Oh, it’s a rigged system,’” Trump said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday night was touting his endorsement in the New York Daily News.

Calling him a “mature, grounded politician,” the Daily News said that Kasich “meets the test of Republican conservatism.”

“Nine terms of congressional service included crafting the first U.S. balanced budget in nearly four decades,” the editorial board wrote. “In 2010, he narrowly won election as Ohio governor and he was reelected in a landslide four years later. While meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board, he was both ebulliently folksy and fully versed on the innards of policy.”

Campaigning in Maryland Wednesday, Kasich again predicted there will be a contested GOP convention.