Democratic Rep. Colin Allred, an NFL player-turned-voting rights attorney, is launching a challenge to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, instantly becoming the frontrunner in one of the few Senate pickup opportunities for Democrats in 2024.
Allred, who is in his third term in the U.S. House, will face an uphill battle against Cruz. No Democrat has won statewide in Texas for nearly three decades. However, the broad Senate map is so tilted against Democrats in 2024 ― they are defending seats in 23 states ― that Texas is seen as the party’s best opportunity to gain a seat.
Cruz is deeply unpopular on a personal level. He has faced intense scrutiny for his role in helping former President Donald Trump’s attempts to reverse the 2020 election results and for traveling to Cancun as ice storms battered Texas in February 2021.
Both events incidents feature heavily in Allred’s launch video, which opens by knocking Cruz’s conduct during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection before delving into Allred’s life story. He was raised by a single mother, made it to the NFL and then law school and became the first member of Congress to take paternity leave in 2019.
“We don’t have to be embarrassed by our senator,” Allred says in the three-minute video. “We can get a new one.”
Allred also characterizes Cruz as a right-wing ideologue more interested in self-promotion than confronting tough issues.
“He wants to divide us, to get people to fear their neighbors and turn on their teachers,” Allred says. “He’d ban books, outlaw all abortions and cut Social Security and Medicare.”
A spokesperson for Cruz, meanwhile, called Allred “too extreme for Texas.”
“Democrats have once again turned to a far-left radical to run for Senate. Not only does Colin Allred vote with [congresswoman and former House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time, but his voting record is completely out-of-touch with Texas,” said the spokesperson, Nick Maddux.
“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.”
Allred is a member of the New Democrat Coalition in the House, which advocates for moderate stances on fiscal and economic issues and is generally seen as pro-business.
With 20 different media markets, Texas is a notoriously expensive state to campaign in. National Democrats may not be able to afford to aid Allred with television ads, and he’ll be expected to replicate past Cruz challenger Beto O’Rourke’s record-breaking fundraising from 2018, when the former congressman brought in more than $80 million.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, said in a statement that Allred was “too liberal” for Texas and explicitly compared him to O’Rourke, who came within three percentage points of defeating Cruz in 2018 and more recently lost a race to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott by an 11-point margin.
“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.
Allred is the most prominent Democrat to enter the race, though four lesser-known candidates have also announced bids. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro was also considering a run, and some Democrats have looked at astronaut Scott Kelly ― the twin brother of Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly ― as a potential candidate.