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Democratic state senator launches challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas

<i>Brandon Bell/Getty Images</i><br/>State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-TX) speaks during a news conference at the Texas State Capitol on January 24 in Austin
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-TX) speaks during a news conference at the Texas State Capitol on January 24 in Austin

By Eric Bradner, CNN

(CNN) — Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez entered the state’s US Senate race on Monday, becoming the second high-profile Democrat vying to take on Republican Sen. Ted Cruz next fall.

Gutierrez, a long-time state lawmaker from San Antonio, represents a district that includes Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers last year, and he referenced the shooting in his announcement.

“I’m running for the U.S. Senate to fight back against the systems that have left so many Texans behind. Ted Cruz abandoned Texas long before he left us to die in the winter storm. Uvalde happened because Republicans neglected the systems in this state that are supposed to keep us safe,” Gutierrez wrote in a tweet accompanying an announcement video.

Gutierrez has since focused on accountability for the victims of the Robb Elementary School massacre, introducing gun safety measures to increase the age to purchase assault-style rifles and to end qualified immunity to make it easier to sue law enforcement officers, among others. Neither measure advanced in the GOP-led legislature during this year’s legislative session.

“I am going to stay angry for a long time. You haven’t seen what I’ve seen,” Gutierrez said in a fiery state Senate floor speech in May.

Gutierrez is entering a primary in which US Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL player and Obama administration housing official, is seen as the front-runner. Allred demonstrated his ability to win competitive races in 2018, when he ousted longtime GOP Rep. Pete Sessions from a blue-trending Dallas-area district. The redistricting process after the 2020 census gave Allred a much safer seat, while Sessions has since returned to Congress representing a different district, anchored in Waco.

Democrats hope Cruz will prove vulnerable again after former US Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s closer-than-expected challenge in 2018, when Cruz won by less than 3 points after O’Rourke shattered Senate campaign fundraising records. It was the closest Democrats had come to winning a Senate race in Texas since Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen won a fourth term in 1988.

Cruz is seeking a third term in the Senate, after passing on a second bid for president. His allies have already sought to paint Allred as out of step with the state on gun rights – a criticism likely to be levied against Gutierrez too.

Allred got a head-start in the race due in part to a Texas law that prevents state lawmakers from accepting federal campaign contributions until June 19, after the end of the state’s legislative session.

The Democratic congressman recently announced that he had brought in $6.2 million in the second quarter that ended June 30 for his Senate bid. Allred, a prolific fundraiser, had more than $2 million in his House campaign account available to transfer to his Senate campaign. He also touted that his campaign had raised more than $2 million in the first 36 hours after announcing his run in May.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s David Wright contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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