Democrats were ecstatic when U.S. Rep. Colin Allred announced his bid against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican they have come closest to beating in more than two decades of GOP dominance in statewide elections.
In 36 hours, they poured more than $2 million into Allred’s fledgling campaign, hoping the former NFL linebacker, who flipped a long-red Dallas district, could be the Democrat who finally flips the entire state.
But Allred says that is not his goal: “I’m running to beat Ted Cruz, not turn Texas blue.”
Allred, who still has to clear a Democratic primary to get a shot at Cruz, is pitching himself as a pragmatic and bipartisan alternative to the two term Texas Republican. Allred says he is a candidate for whom independents and even moderate Republicans turned off by Cruz’s more polarizing antics — such as his effort on Jan. 6, 2021, to delay the certification of President Joe Biden’s election win — can feel “comfortable” voting.
“We have a senator in Ted Cruz who has spent his two terms in the Senate pitting us against each other and trying to divide us,” Allred said. “He’s currently podcasting three times a week and doing everything he can to be on cable news as often as possible. We need to have a change in leadership.”
Allred’s supporters think it is a winning message — especially against Cruz, who is seen as among the most potentially vulnerable Republicans in the Senate in a 2024 cycle that is expected to see few Democratic gains, if any. Allred’s announcement led at least one elections forecaster to declare the state a battleground.
Perhaps most importantly, Allred has shown he can actually beat a Republican incumbent. In 2018, Allred was one of two Democrats in Texas who won in long-Republican districts, beating U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, who had held a Dallas-area seat for two decades, by 6.5 percentage points.
Allred said he pulled it off by taking the same approach he is in the Senate race: “By appealing broadly and by expanding who gets involved.”
That was one of the criticisms lobbed at Beto O’Rourke back in 2018, that he had never really had to run against a Republican before. He didn’t do too badly. It’s impossible to say how much that might help Allred this time around, but I figure it can’t hurt. And look, while I’m sure at some point we’re going to have a debate about “appealing to the base to maximize turnout” versus “persuading those who can be persuaded to cross over”, the simple truth is we need both. And we know that those crossover-persuadable Rs are there, because we’ve seen them in action in every election since 2016. I’m not saying this is easy, there’s definitely a balance to be struck, but if you’re arguing for one over the other and not both, I say you’re choosing a strategy that can’t win at this time. In the future, maybe base maximization will do it. We ain’t there yet.
Obligatory Opponent Observations Department:
He will also have to make it through what could shape up to be a crowded primary. State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a 52-year-old San Antonio Democrat, is nearly certain to run, sources have told the Express-News.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, 68, has also been floated as a possible candidate. And John Love, a former member of the Midland City Council and past president of the Texas Municipal League, has already announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination.
Allred’s early entry in the race — a year and a half before the election — is significant, said Joshua Blank, a political scientist at the University of Texas at Austin.
“You find yourself sitting around waiting to find out who the Democrats are going to scrounge up to run for some of these offices,” Blank said. “Here instead you have a politician who would be sitting in a safe seat looking at this as a political opportunity.”
Yes, Sen. Gutierrez is coming, though his timetable is being disrupted by Greg Abbott and his petulant voucher fantasies. That makes early campaigning that much more valuable to Rep. Allred, as he’s getting a jump on the primary as well. I still have no idea where the Sylvester Turner name-dropping comes from, but a tip of the cap for the John Love mention. Heli Rodriguez-Prilliman, keep on keeping on.