United States Senate election in Texas, 2024
The 2024 U.S. Senate election in Texas is shaping up to be one of the most high-profile contests in the country. Republican incumbent Ted Cruz is seeking re-election to a third term, but Democrats see Texas as a potential pickup opportunity as the state trends more purple.
Ted Cruz Seeks Re-Election
Senator Ted Cruz first won election to the Senate in 2012 after defeating then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in a competitive Republican primary runoff. Cruz quickly became one of the most prominent conservative voices in Congress and ran for president in 2016, winning several state primaries and caucuses before dropping out.
Cruz’s Background and Record
Cruz graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Before entering politics, he served as Solicitor General of Texas from 2003 to 2008. In the Senate, Cruz has established himself as an outspoken champion for limited government. He led efforts to shut down the federal government in 2013 in an attempt to defund Obamacare. Cruz has also been a vocal critic of abortion rights and gun control legislation.
Challenges Cruz Faces
While Cruz remains popular with Texas Republicans, his combative political style has alienated some moderate voters. And demographics continue to shift in Texas, with Latino and younger voters trending more Democratic. Cruz only narrowly defeated Beto O’Rourke in 2018, winning by just 3 points. He now faces the challenge of broadening his appeal beyond the GOP base. Several Republicans have announced primary challenges to Cruz, but none are seen as serious threats so far.
Democratic Primary Field
With Cruz looking vulnerable, a crowded field of Democrats has emerged hoping to take him on in November.
Rep. Colin Allred
The early Democratic frontrunner is Rep. Colin Allred, who represents a Dallas-area congressional district. Allred is a moderate first elected to the House in 2018 after defeating Republican Pete Sessions. He was also a professional football player for the Tennessee Titans. His centrist profile and ability to raise money make him a top contender for the nomination.
Other Top Contenders
Other Democrats running include state Senator Roland Gutierrez, 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Mike Collier, and former congressional candidate MJ Hegar. Gutierrez is campaigning as an outspoken progressive and supporter of Medicare for All. Collier is positioning himself as a pragmatic centrist focused on reducing healthcare costs. And Hegar gained prominence in 2018 when her viral campaign ads nearly helped her defeat incumbent Rep. John Carter.
State of the Race
Polls and Ratings
Early polls show a tight race, with Cruz leading Allred by low single-digit margins. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as Likely Republican. But many analysts agree Texas is trending competitive, and a midterm environment favoring Democrats could flip the seat.
Immigration, healthcare, abortion access, and gun policy will likely be major dividing lines. Cruz opposes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and backs strict abortion limits. Democrats are campaigning heavily on protecting reproductive rights. The Uvalde school shooting has also renewed calls for stricter gun laws in Texas.
Turnout will be critical, especially among Latino voters. Higher Latino support for Democrats was key to O’Rourke’s strong 2018 showing, and Allred or whoever wins the nomination will need to replicate it. Democratic primary turnout could signal the level of enthusiasm heading into November.
Road to the Primary
Cruz retains a sizable cash advantage, having raised over $40 million this cycle compared to around $13 million for Allred. However, Democratic campaigns expect a flood of out-of-state donations if the race remains tight post-primary.
Cruz has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and the NRA. Allred recently picked up endorsements from the League of Conservation Voters and several members of Congress. An endorsement from progressive icon Beto O’Rourke could give a candidate like Gutierrez a boost ahead of March.
Paths to Victory
The incumbent starts from a position of strength in traditionally red Texas. He will rely on strong conservative turnout and focus his message on bread-and-butter GOP issues like immigration, gun rights, and cutting government spending. Branding his opponent as too liberal for Texas will also be key.
What Democrats Need to Do
Democrats need historic voter mobilization among young people, Latinos, and Black voters. Drawing clear contrasts with Cruz on abortion, healthcare, and guns will help motivate these key blocs. The eventual nominee must also appeal to some independents and Republicans dissatisfied with Cruz’s polarizing style. Flipping just a few percentage points of suburban GOP voters could make the difference.
Cruz and his Democratic challenger face divergent paths to victory. Cruz needs to fire up his conservative base while the Democrat must build a broad anti-Cruz coalition. The race will test whether Texas’ partisan shift has moved far enough to unseat a powerhouse Republican like Cruz. Either way, all eyes will be on Texas as Democrats seek a pivotal Senate pickup.
Who is the Republican incumbent in the Texas Senate race?
Ted Cruz, first elected in 2012.
What Democrat is seen as the early frontrunner?
Rep. Colin Allred has emerged as the Democratic favorite so far.
How have Texas’ demographics been shifting politically?
The state has been trending more Democratic driven by growth in Latino voters and urban professionals.
Does the Democratic nominee need to win independent voters?
Yes, winning over moderates and independents alienated by Cruz will be crucial.
When is the Texas primary election?
March 5, 2024.