Jul 10, 2023 - World

Texas Democrat enters race to unseat Ted Cruz

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez during a news conference at the Texas State Capitol on Jan. 24. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a San Antonio-area Democrat, is launching a bid for the U.S. Senate on Monday, with the hope of challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2024.

The big picture: Gutierrez gained attention during the last legislative session for his push for gun restrictions following the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

  • His bills, however, never got a hearing in the GOP-controlled Senate.
  • Gutierrez will face U.S. Rep. Colin Allred in the Democratic primary on March 5. Allred, a civil rights lawyer and former NFL player who was first elected to Congress in 2018, raised $6.2 million in the first two months of his campaign, according to the Texas Tribune.

Driving the news: Cruz, who is seeking a third term, is seen as one of a few vulnerable Senate Republicans in next year's elections.

  • He continues to be a polarizing figure, facing criticism over his response to the May 6 mass shooting in a Dallas suburb and his visit to Cancún in 2021 during a deadly winter storm in Texas since last facing re-election.
  • He beat El Paso Democrat Beto O'Rourke in 2018 by less than 3 percentage points. No Democrat has been elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas since 1988.

Background: Gutierrez, 52, is an immigration attorney who served on the San Antonio City Council for three years before he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2008.

  • He was elected to the state Senate in 2020.

What they're saying: "For me, Uvalde was certainly a moment in my life that changed me forever," Gutierrez tells Axios, adding that it's one of the reasons he's looking to unseat Cruz.

  • He's also driven by issues such as high health care costs, poor public education funding and outcomes and the economic hurdles many Americans are dealing with, he says.
  • "My platform is gonna be based on solving the real problems, not creating the boogeyman, not blaming whoever that marginalized person is," Gutierrez says.
  • Gutierrez says he has much more experience as a public servant than Allred, whom political analysts consider a front-runner in the primary.

Cruz spokesperson Nick Maddux said in a statement Monday that the campaign welcomes Gutierrez to the race, adding that Texans will see Allred and Gutierrez "slug it out for who can be the most radical leftist in the state."

  • "Meanwhile, Sen. Cruz will continue passionately defending Texas and delivering real results for 30 million Texans."

Tory Gavito, president of Way to Win, a progressive group, says Democrats face "a massive undertaking" in winning statewide offices, but that both Gutierrez and Allred come from parts of the state with coalitions of voters that can make a big difference.

  • Gavito says that's because both are bringing a “fire in their bellies” that “Texans need to see more and more often."
  • Still, she cautions that Democrats need to do a lot of work to build a stronger voter base and to motivate potential voters.
  • "One day we're gonna get there just because nothing lasts forever and it is a changing state."

Editor's note: This story has been update with Nick Maddux's statement.

Subscribe to Axios Latino to get vital news about Latinos and Latin America, delivered to your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Go deeper