April 22nd, 2024

Democratic Rep. Colin Allred wins campaign to challenge GOP Sen. Ted Cruz

By Paul J. Weber And Sean Murphy, The Associated Press on March 5, 2024.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Democratic U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL player who broke with his party over President Joe Biden’s handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, won his Senate primary Tuesday to propel an underdog campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Allred fended off his biggest Democratic challenger, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who became an outspoken voice for stricter gun laws after the Uvalde school shooting and courted the party’s left wing.

“We don’t have to be embarrassed by our senator,” Allred said in a speech to supporters. “We can get a new one and that’s what this is all about.”

No Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas in 30 years, the longest losing streak of its kind in the U.S. Despite that, Democrats believe Texas and Florida are their best shot for upsets in November as they try to preserve a slim 51-49 advantage in the Senate. That majority includes West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who is not seeking reelection and whose seat is likely to flip Republican.

Cruz, who faced no major primary opponent, officially locked up the GOP nomination for a third term Tuesday.

“I look forward to continuing to meet Texans in every corner of the state as we work together to ensure that we keep Texas, Texas,” Cruz said in a statement.

Allred promised to work to protect a woman’s right to have an abortion so that “folks like Ted Cruz can’t force women to flee their own state to get the health care that they need.”

Allred, who would become Texas’ first Black senator if elected, has raised more than $21 million since getting into the race. That’s significantly more than his primary challengers, whom the civil rights lawyer has largely ignored during the primary while keeping his attacks focused on Cruz.

It is Cruz’s first time on the ballot since his 2021 trip to Mexico during a deadly winter storm that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of Texans and wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid and utilities. Cruz later said the family vacation was “obviously a mistake.” Democrats, including Allred, have attacked Cruz relentlessly for it.

Cruz has raised more than $46 million in his bid to secure another six-year term.

Allred, 40, made headlines in January when he was among 14 House Democrats who backed a Republican resolution in Congress that criticized President Joe Biden’s handling of the border. Gutierrez criticized Allred for the vote, accusing him of siding “with GOP extremists,” and Cruz spokesperson Macarena Martinez called the vote a “disingenuous attempt to posture on the border.”

Allred said he did not agree with all the language in the resolution but said he wanted to see more urgency at the federal level when it comes to the border.

“For me, it was about sending a signal that, you know, what we have been doing is not working,” Allred said in an interview last week during early voting in Texas. “We have to change something.”

Cruz only narrowly beat Beto O’Rourke for reelection in 2018 by less than 3 percentage points. It was the closest Democrats have come in decades to winning a statewide seat and happened during a midterm election that wound up being a strong year for Democrats nationally.

Texas Democrats have struggled to recapture that momentum since then. O’Rourke lost by double digits when he challenged Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in 2022.

“Things are shifting in the state. It takes a long time,” said Jared Hockeman, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Cameron County along the U.S.-Mexico border. “We recognize that.”

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Murphy reported from Oklahoma City.

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