National Democratic Party strategists had hoped to have little in the way of intra-party competition for their favored Texas US Senate candidate, US Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas), but such a potential outcome ended yesterday.
San Antonio area state Senator Roland Gutierrez (D) announced that he will enter the Lone Star Democratic primary, which will likely ignite a difficult statewide nomination battle with Rep. Allred who announced his candidacy in early May. The eventual party nominee will then challenge two-term Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in the general election.
This primary race is more competitive than meets the eye. First, though a state legislator, Mr. Gutierrez actually represents more people in the state Senate than Rep. Allred does in Congress. With Texas having 31 state Senators and 38 US Representatives, each upper chamber legislator represents approximately 150,000 more people than a member of the US House.
Additionally, with his hard stand for gun control, particularly after the Uvalde school shooting in a county that Mr. Gutierrez represents, he is possibly better entrenched with the progressive left movement, a key base component in a Texas Democratic primary, than is Rep. Allred.
Furthermore, Sen. Gutierrez is part of the strong San Antonio Democratic base that the Castro brothers, US Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) and former HUD Secretary, 2020 presidential candidate, and ex-San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, headline. This political foundation at least to a degree negates what may be Rep. Allred’s advantage coming from the more populace DFW Metroplex.
The Congressman clearly has the early edge in fundraising. Just after the June 30th Federal Election Commission financial disclosure period ended for the second quarter, Rep. Allred released a statement saying that he raised over $6.2 million for his Senate effort in the weeks after announcing his candidacy but did not indicate his cash-on-hand balance. He will now have to spend heavily just to win the party nomination in March.
Sen. Gutierrez represents a legislative domain similar to that of US Rep. Tony Gonzales*’ (R-San Antonio) congressional district in that it begins in the San Antonio metro area and then stretches through most of southwest Texas toward El Paso. Prior to defeating a Republican incumbent to win a Senate seat in 2020, Mr. Gutierrez had served six terms in the state House of Representatives.
In announcing his candidacy, Sen. Gutierrez was quoted as saying that he’ll, “outwork Colin Allred and I'll work harder than Ted Cruz. I'm sure Colin's a nice guy, but I'm gonna outwork him because that's the way I was raised." He also argues that he has a stronger record of public service, citing his 15 years as a member of the state legislature as compared to Rep. Allred who was first elected in 2018.
While Gutierrez has been critical of the lack of attention to the gun control issue in relation to the Uvalde school shooting, in fact being quoted as saying that, "there is a special place in hell for people who have this kind of problem staring them square in the face and have done nothing about it," he may find himself in a difficult position over another issue where inaction has been the result.
Sen. Gutierrez also represents the Del Rio community, the site of the border entry point with the most illegal crossings into the US from Mexico across the Rio Grande River. It is very likely that Sen. Cruz would force Gutierrez to defend the Biden Administration’s lack of border enforcement, which is in juxtaposition to his call for activism regarding the Uvalde shooting. Sen. Cruz would also tag Gutierrez with his support for the Biden energy policies, which has hurt the West Texas fossil fuels region, another area that the state Senator represents.
It is likely the beneficiary of what will be a hotly contested race between Messrs. Allred and Gutierrez is Sen. Cruz, and he will have the opportunity to go on offense right after the Democrats nominate their candidate. The Texas primary is scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 5, 2024.
Since the national Democratic Party has little in the way of conversion opportunities on the national Senate map, expect them to invest much more in Texas than they typically would. Still, winning a Senate seat in Texas during a presidential election year will be a high bar to overcome regardless of the resources they might expend.
*denotes candidate received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2023-2024 election cycle.
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