Elections

Congressman Colin Allred leads a crowded Democratic primary field seeking to challenge Senator Ted Cruz

Allred has a solid fundraising lead over his eight rivals in the Texas Democratic Senate primary, but a recent poll shows he’s still battling a lack of name recognition.

2022 primary election
Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
Campaign and voting signs line the entry way to a polling station in Harris County.

The 2024 Texas primary elections are less than two months away. One of the top contests Democrats will see is the one to decide who will challenge Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who is seeking a third term this fall. The Democratic field is crowded, but the campaign finance numbers suggest a clear frontrunner.

Dallas Congressman Colin Allred has a campaign war chest of $7.9 million, according to the latest figures reported to the Federal Election Commission. That's more than Cruz himself, who had less than $5.8 million on hand as of the end of September.

"Ted Cruz is vulnerable," said Sharon Navarro, a political scientist at the University of Texas at San Antonio. "We saw his vulnerability in the last senatorial election. (Then-Congressman) Beto O'Rourke was within two percentage points of defeating Ted Cruz, and that signaled to Democrats that he is, that this will be a competitive race."

Allred's nearest Democratic rival, State Senator Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio, had less than $380,000 as of the end of the third quarter of 2023. Other candidates officially registered for the Democratic primary include tax consultant Meri Gomez, attorney Mark Gonzalez, businessman A "Robert" Hassan, teacher Steven J. Keough, entrepreneur Heli Rodriguez-Prilliman, pastor and consultant Carl Oscar Sherman, and non-profit executive and political activist Thierry Tchenko.

The wide Democratic field increases the possibility that none of the contenders will garner more than 50% of the vote in the first round of the primary on March 5. If that were to happen, the top two vote-getters would have to compete in a primary runoff on May 28.

The latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll shows Allred at 28%, Gutierrez at 7%, and all the other candidates at 3% or less. Nearly 50% of respondents said that they either didn't know for whom they would vote or that they had not yet thought about it enough to decide.

"Allred has been around making the speech circuits around for a few months now. He still has a lack of recognition. We know that Roland Gutierrez is out there. And those are the two most well-known, if you could say that," Navarro said, adding that lack of name recognition would be a hurdle for any Democrat in the general election. "Everyone knows Ted Cruz, for good or bad."