Since announcing his 2024 Senate campaign, U.S. Rep. Colin Allred has focused his attention on the potential bruising fight against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz.
Before Allred can get to Cruz, however, he’ll likely have to face a significant challenge in the Democratic Party primary.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio is preparing to challenge Allred for the Democratic Party nomination against Cruz, according to four people with knowledge of his deliberations. Gutierrez, 52, is considering launching his campaign after the Texas’ legislative session concludes on Memorial Day. There could be special sessions that impact the timing of that decision.
Gutierrez has gotten media attention for his gun safety crusade for the victims of the May 24 Uvalde massacre, wants to provide party voters with an alternative.
Other contenders could emerge, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, according to numerous Democratic Party sources. Former Midland City Council member John Love is already in the field with Allred.
Let me stop you right there. I have no idea where this “Sylvester Turner” business is coming from. His name has come up before, in the “Other names mentioned” part of the story, and I assume that’s what is happening here as well. Why it is coming up, other than the fact that he’s in his last year as Houston Mayor and he’s a reasonably recognizable name, is the mystery. I’m not going to claim that I know everything there is to know about Sylvester Turner, and I know that even this kind of loose speculation is based on people talking and that never comes completely out of the blue, but I just don’t see this. Please feel free to set me straight if you know something I don’t know.
Also, kudos for the mention of John Love, the first declared Democrat in this race. Now I need to start a campaign to get Heli Rodriguez-Prilliman mentioned as well.
Gutierrez did not comment on his political future.
But Colin Strother, a consultant for Gutierrez, said Allred does not have the right message. His comments are an early peek at how Gutierrez could try to contrast himself with Allred.
“Based on everything that [Allred has] said and tweeted, and posted thus far, he’s trying to appeal to Republicans, and he’s citing his work across the aisle and his support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” Strother said. “The Chamber of Commerce has enough members in the Senate, and I just don’t see base Democrats getting excited to vote for Republican-light.”
Strother added: “The ground is very fertile for a progressive candidate to run.”
Allred, however, comes into a primary contest with broad support. He’s been endorsed by the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus. Along with being backed for his congressional races by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he’s been supported by organized labor.
Allred’s campaign did not comment on Strother’s criticism, instead pointing to the congressman’s remarks that he’s focused on defeating Cruz.
Gotta say, it’s a little weird to see Colin Strother associate himself with the “progressive” candidate in a Democratic primary. Politics is a strange place. From where I sit, neither candidate is a “progressive” in the sense that that word is often used in this context. This isn’t going to be a primary about Medicare for all or a national $15 minimum wage. Both candidates have connections to business and energy interests that a Jessica Cisneros type would attack them for, but neither has any bad votes or associations on topics like abortion or LGBTQ issues or (obviously) gun control. If Gutierrez wants to define himself as the more progressive candidate because of his activism on gun control, that’s fine by me and it’s perfectly reasonable strategy. I would just like it if we all kept some perspective on this.
“The way it starts off is Allred has the advantage of probably being able to rely on the African American votes in Dallas and Houston, which is a substantial share of the Democratic primary electorate,” said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University who is studying the race.
“Gutierrez is more likely to be able to appeal to Latinos,” he said, “so the group that will be the decisive group would be liberal Anglos. Where do they go?”
“Last year, Rochelle Garza cleaned up against Joe Jaworski, though that was partly the male/female dynamic,” said North Texas-based consultant Jeff Dalton, who managed the 2020 Senate campaign of state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. He said Garza appealed to Latinos from the Valley and San Antonio and other parts of the state.”
But Gutierrez’s challenge is raising enough money to be able to amplify his message. If he can’t, Allred will drown him out.
“Anybody with a Latino last name in the Democratic primary comes in with a base,” [Democratic strategist Matt] Angle said. “The question is whether or not you could take that and expand upon it.”
Angle added that both candidates, largely unknown outside of their hometowns, will have to build a coalition to win. That means they will have to extend beyond their Black and Latino support.
“You have to build a coalition,” he said.
Dalton said a competitive primary could help raise the profiles of the contenders and make them better candidates.
“Primaries are not necessarily a bad thing,” Dalton said. “Sometimes a primary can raise attention about the race or help people raise money.”
Most Democrats warn against a bitter fight.
“I hope that people run for only one reason and that is to beat Ted Cruz,” Angle said. “We don’t have the luxury of symbolic campaigns.”
I think we’re all basically in agreement here. Allred started out with a big fundraising haul right after his announcement, which certainly helps him. Gutierrez is dependent on the end of the legislative session to try to reap the same benefit. He has the signature issue, which should help with activist energy. If they’re out there beating the bushes and getting people excited about taking on Ted Cruz, it’s all good.