This article originally appeared in https://www.texastribune.org/2023/05/03/ted-cruz-colin-allred-2024/
By PATRICK SVITEK and MATTHEW CHOI
The Texas Tribune
U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, announced Wednesday he is challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for reelection.
The third-term congressman made the announcement in a three-minute video posted on social media. The video touted Allred’s life story and congressional record – and took multiple shots at Cruz, including over his role leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and his trip to Cancun during the 2021 winter freeze.
“We deserve a senator whose team is Texas,” said Allred, a former NFL player. “Ted Cruz only cares about himself – you know that.”
Allred had been considering a campaign for months, and the launch was no surprise after it leaked out earlier this week that his announcement was imminent.
Allred’s campaign begins as an uphill battle. A Democrat hasn’t won a statewide election in Texas since 1994, and while Cruz’s 2018 reelection race against Beto O’Rourke was surprisingly tight, Democrats have not been able to replicate such a close contest since then.
“Some people say a Democrat can’t win in Texas,” Allred said in the video, which partly focused on his upbringing from the son of a single mother to NFL player. “Well, someone like me was never supposed to get this far.”
Cruz’s campaign responded by calling Allred “too extreme for Texas,” citing his faithful voting record with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Allred wants men to compete in women’s sports, isn’t serious about addressing the crisis at the border, wants to take away law-abiding Texans’ guns, and is soft on punishing murderers,” Cruz spokesperson Nick Maddux said in a statement. “Thankfully, the Lone Star State has a tireless champion in Sen. Ted Cruz.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee also issued a statement dismissing Allred’s chances.
“Just like Beto O’Rourke before him, Colin Allred is going to quickly regret giving up his safe House seat to run yet another doomed, Democrat vanity campaign in Texas,” NRSC spokesperson Philip Letsou said.
Cruz has some of the highest job-approval ratings among Republicans in the state and has amassed considerable influence in the Senate since his last reelection. Cruz is now the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee and has evolved from conservative noisemaker to established right-wing brand. He regularly appears on conservative media, and his podcast, Verdict with Ted Cruz, has millions of listeners.
Allred went after Cruz’s celebrity status in his announcement, saying “he’ll do anything to get on Fox News but can’t be bothered to help keep rural Texas hospitals open.”
That will likely be a campaign theme, with Allred also focusing on growing up as the son of a working-class single mother who has been able to build bridges with both the business community and labor groups, having been endorsed previously by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO labor union.
Allred is also a civil rights lawyer who worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama. He first ran for Congress in 2018, unseating Republican Rep. Pete Sessions in the Dallas-based district.
Cruz is running for a third term in the Senate after toying with making another White House bid in 2024.
Allred is likely to face primary competition. State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, is likely to run but is not expected to make any announcement until after the legislative session, which ends May 29.
For now, Gutierrez appears to be the only other Democrat giving the race a serious look. Julián Castro, the former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor, does not plan to run, according to a spokesperson, Sawyer Hackett.
Allred has to give up his U.S. House seat to run against Cruz. It was made safe for Democrats during the 2021 redistricting process, and there will be no shortage of candidates for it in the Democrat-dominated Dallas area.
Already on Wednesday morning, state Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton, emerged as a potential candidate for Allred’s seat in the 32nd Congressional District. Johnson said in a statement she was “strongly considering” running, though she would not make any decisions until after the legislative session.
Allred’s launch video drew clear battle lines against Cruz, starting with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection when supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in protest of his reelection loss. Allred said Cruz “cheered on the mob and then hid in a supply closet when they stormed the Capitol.”
“That’s Ted for you – all hat, no cattle,” Allred said.
The video also promoted Allred’s bipartisan credentials. He said he has “worked with Republicans” on issues related to veterans, trade and semiconductor manufacturing. It included multiple shots of Allred appearing with a GOP colleague from North Texas, Rep. Jake Ellzey. Allred and Ellzey served together last year on the traditionally bipartisan House Veterans Affairs Committee, where they worked to improve veteran health care investment in the region.
Allred is a well-liked figure in the Democratic caucus, getting picked to help lead his freshman class in the U.S. House in 2019. His class included several other notable new Texans, including U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar, who were both the first Texas Latinas elected to Congress, and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, who flipped a historically red district in Houston.
Fletcher was quick to endorse Allred, sending a fundraising email Wednesday urging support for his run against Cruz.
But Allred has also flexed his partisan fighting chops by serving on the House subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government, which Democrats decry as a political sham. Allred said at the time of the committee’s creation that he would be a “commonsense voice” and “focus on holding Republicans accountable.”