Courtesy/Allred Campaign Video

Colin Allred Easily Wins Chance to (Not Easily) Beat Ted Cruz

The Dallas Democrat will now feature prominently in his party’s hopes to hold on to a razor-thin margin in the Senate this fall.


On Tuesday night, Dallas Congressman Colin Allred bested San Antonio state Senator Roland Gutierrez in the Democratic primary contest for the right to challenge U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in November. In what was seen as a two-way race between the pair, Allred—always the frontrunner—trounced Gutierrez by a margin of more than 40 points as of late Tuesday. By around 9 p.m., networks called the race for Allred, calculating he’d won the nomination without the need for a May runoff. Allred will now feature prominently in national Democrats’ hopes to hold on to a razor-thin margin in the U.S. Senate this fall.

Allred—a 40-year-old former NFL player and civil rights lawyer in the Obama administration—spent recent months tacking to the right and positioning himself as the moderate establishment candidate. He joined Republicans in a misleading condemnation of President Joe Biden’s supposedly “open borders” policies and even praised the announcement of border wall construction in South Texas, something the president himself had described as pointless but out of his hands to stop. Allred also refused, as the body count soared, to call for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Gutierrez, a 53-year-old immigration attorney who served more than a decade in the state House before rising to the upper chamber in 2021, had veered in the opposite direction, endorsing Medicare for All, a Gaza ceasefire, and progressive immigration policies. Perhaps more than anything, he pinned his campaign on aggressive gun control measures, beliefs he embraced with passionate intensity after the 2022 Uvalde school shooting that left 21 dead in his district.

But Gutierrez floundered across the state Tuesday, even losing his home Bexar County to Allred by a wide margin. 

To some extent, the writing was on the wall well before Tuesday evening. As of mid-February, Allred had outraised Gutierrez roughly 16-to-1 and boasted an advantage in key endorsements including the blessings of the Texas AFL-CIO and the editorial boards of the state’s major newspapers. Even Gutierrez’s hometown paper, the San Antonio Express-News, went for Allred—citing the congressman’s “temperament and depth of knowledge on the issues”—despite the editorial board expressing almost no significant criticism of Gutierrez. 

In its endorsement, the Houston Chronicle described the choice facing Democratic voters as a chance to “vote with their head or with their heart,” the former referring to Allred and the latter Gutierrez. The board accurately described Allred’s level demeanor as verging into “being bland” and acknowledged of Gutierrez that “It’s refreshing to see some of our own raw anger and frustration in a political candidate.” But the paper, as with other major endorsing bodies and Democratic power-brokers, reasoned that Allred was simply the wiser choice to sway white moderates away from Cruz and, once in the Senate, to get the proverbial things done.

Roland Gutierrez stands with hands clasped, wearing a blue March For Our Lives shirt. He's surrounded by parents and supporters of the Uvalde families at a rally at the Texas Capitol.
Roland Gutierrez attends a gun control rally at the Texas Capitol in 2022. Gus Bova/Texas Observer

A major piece of Allred’s primary pitch was that he’d already, six years ago, toppled a GOP Congressional incumbent. It’s true, of course, but 2018 is a bygone era in Texas politics. That year amounted to what passes for a blue wave in the Lone Star State with Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s electric near-victory over Cruz propelling a suite of down-ballot Democratic wins—Allred’s U.S. House victory among them. In his congressional district, Allred underperformed O’Rourke that November by four points. And, in the first place, it hadn’t exactly required great courage or insight to target the seat for a Dem pickup: Then-candidate Hillary Clinton had bested Trump in the district by 2 points back in 2016. Nevertheless, Allred notched the victory, and Texas Democrats will now cross their fingers that he can pull off a far more challenging feat this fall. 

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Gutierrez’s pitch wasn’t just his progressive policies but his Latino identity. In comments bizarrely construed by the Daily Beast, he’d effectively said that it will be a Latino who one day breaks Texas Dems’ three-decade statewide losing streak. He may have had a point; Hispanic surnames are an asset in Lone Star politics. We will see. Early polls showed the two Democrats having similar chances against Cruz—with their odds ranging from quite long to basically even, depending on the survey.

The San Antonian’s defeat also says something about the long tail of the Uvalde tragedy. The families of those lost on May 24, 2022, have had their lives irrevocably transformed. That entire southwest Texas town, really, was convulsed in ways that will be excruciatingly long in fading. In something like concentric circles outward, thousands or maybe millions of Texans who engaged with the horrors of that day will never shake the images they saw, the sounds they heard, the holes that opened in their chests as they imagined it happening to one of their own kids.

But the Uvalde tragedy has not translated to the ballot box. In November 2022, GOP Governor Greg Abbott beat O’Rourke, then seeking the governor’s office, in Uvalde County despite a coalition of Uvalde families fighting hard for the El Paso Democrat. Last year, the mother of one of the students who perished lost a mayoral bid in Uvalde. And now Gutierrez, probably the sitting official who stuck closest with Uvalde families as they worked to turn their pain into policy change, who battled the hardest for them and put his reputation in the state Senate on the line for the cause, fell short on Tuesday. Now, he’ll return to the stifling confines of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s chamber.

As most everyone knows by now, a Texas Democrat hasn’t won statewide since 1994. Their losing streak is as old as Forrest Gump. In Allred, the party establishment, especially in Washington, has a candidate in their desired mold—a politician on the rise who knows how to tack right and keep the money flowing. He little resembles O’Rourke, whose 2018 campaign was a tour de force of personality, cooked up in the Mountain Time Zone far from the state’s major power centers and unbeholden to party mandarins in Washington. 

But Allred is likely a stronger candidate than the last Democratic U.S. Senate nominee in 2020: National Democrats went out of their way to back M.J. Hegar, whose principal accomplishment was losing a 2018 U.S. House race and who won the 2020 nomination in a runoff—also against a longtime state legislator—only to get walloped by senior Senator John Cornyn. As always, time will tell. 

There is a Buddhist saying, or so I’ve heard: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” 

If you meet someone who claims to know what it will take for a Democrat to win statewide in Texas, refrain from violence, but you probably shouldn’t believe them.