The major prize fight in Texas in 2024 will more than likely be U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz versus whoever runs against him in the general.
Given the average Texan’s opinion on how Democrats have performed lately, it is predicted to be a meatgrinder of a general election with Cruz the easy victor (Ed: though it is more than a year out and early to tell, we’ll go ahead and hedge our bets now).
U.S. Rep. Collin Allred could be the Texas Democratic Party’s latest sacrificial lamb to keep hopes warm and donations flying in.
Allred — now running statewide in an all red state (pardon the pun) — announced Tuesday after a leak made news Monday he would challenge Cruz. A former pro football player with the Tennessee Titans and rep from the northeastern Dallas suburbs who unseated Congressman Pete Sessions (who now represents his home turf between Waco and Austin), Allred is a rising star within the DNC and a sought-after speaker.
Having recently turned 40, Allred carries a lot of hope for Democrats who are drawn to his youth, his biracial upbringing, progressive politics, humble upbringing, an impressive resume from the Obama Administration, and having pulled off an upset victory against a longtime incumbent Republican. Allred held the turf against Republican challenger Genevieve Collins 52-46% in 2020 in Texas CD-32, in which he is serving his third term.
Cruz is also seeking a third term, and immediately called Allred “too extreme for Texas,” connecting him to former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Allred aired a video attempting to blame Cruz for the U.S. Capitol break-in during the 2021 election protests and his much-maligned trip to Cancun during the winter freeze that same year. “Ted Cruz only cares about himself — you know that,” Allred said in the spot.
From the hip: It is not clear whom the Democratic establishment will line up behind this year as their showcase candidate. According to the Texas Tribune, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio is likely to run but is not expected to make any announcement until after the legislative session this summer. There could be others, and rumors of a Julian Castro run are rampant.
But whoever wins the Democrat Primary may end up king of the dung heap — but only electorally speaking (keep reading — there are some perks).
For starters, it has now been three decades since the Democrats have held a statewide office in the Lone Star State. Democratic strategy has shifted much since the days when the minority party would run a B-team as placeholders for statewide offices, in hopes that those with enough cash could carry the torch. Now the Democrats tend to rally around one notable statewide candidate as a means to funnel fundraising cash down-ballot and stay relevant. But that only makes their chances modestly better — still largely dependent on national trends.
For example, 2014 saw a high-profile contest between then-Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott and Sen. Wendy Davis, which ended in favor of Abbott 59-39%. All eyes were on Wendy and her much-ballyhooed abortion filibuster. Following a sleepy contest between former Houston Mayor Bill White and Gov. Rick Perry in 2010 (42-55%, respectively), observers were hopeful Davis could break through.
The 2018 cycle was then-Congressman Beto O’Rourke‘s turn, as he took on Cruz for re-election. Cruz eked out a narrow victory 51-48% during an election seen widely as a referendum on President Donald Trump, a nadir point for many Republican incumbents. This fed hopes for a second Beto showcase as soon as tenable.
As a sidenote: The Democratic establishment that year had previously banked on Andrew White, son of former Texas Gov. Mark White, becoming the gubernatorial nominee and taking on Abbott. Instead, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez pulled off a surprise primary victory — and almost out of anger all attention went to Beto versus Ted. Other statewide candidates were virtually ignored, and little was said about Valdez from the state higher-ups and various progressive muckamucks.
The 2022 election is a fresher memory, with an O’Rourke versus Abbott contest. Abbott won with over 20% of the vote. Enough said there.
But hold off before you laugh at whichever blue candidate wins the race to be thrown into the steaming red volcano of Texas statewide elections as sacrifice. There’s an honorarium that comes with your campaign being the cause celebre of the Texas Left.
Your yard signs become synonymous with Texas Democrat.
You get speaking fees.
You might even sell a few ghost-written books while you’re at it.
And surely some bastion of leftist academia will offer you a paycheck and a posh lecturing deal.
All-in-all, it’s a race to carry the banner in a state that Democrats firmly believe will one day be a battleground, and that carries some major respect among Dems. It’s good work if Allred can get it, even if Cruz is likely to win. It may even be worth taking a break from a Republican-dominated House. It could also pave the way for runs for higher office.