Sen. Ted Cruz

If Allred runs for Cruz’s seat, will Julie Johnson run for Allred’s seat?

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Former Sen. Al Franken once said, “I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz.”

Democrats around the country have long held a special hatred for Cruz, and Republicans don’t like him much more than Democrats. And yet, Cruz keeps on winning elections. Not only has he been elected to two terms as U.S. senator, but he beat Trump in the 2016 Texas presidential primary.

But polling shows he’s vulnerable, at least in part because people don’t like him personally, so Democrats are gearing up for a tough battle to defeat him in his 2024 bid to be re-elected to the U.S. Senate.

Among those Democrats considering a run against Cruz is U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, who represents a district that includes parts of Oak Lawn and most of northern Dallas County.

Congressman Colin Allred

Allred was initially elected in 2018 to a district that had been represented by Republican Pete Sessions. Sessions was first elected to Congress in 1996 and, with redistricting, was elected to the 32nd District in 2002. After Allred defeated Sessions in 2018, Sessions moved to Waco where he was returned to Congress to represent a safely Republican district.

So Allred, in just a few short years in office, has the experience of taking down an established and entrenched politician.

Allred, an ally in Congress for the LGBTQ community, is popular in his district and around North Texas. He secured funding for a VA hospital in Garland. He’s been prominent in the fight to lower prescription drug costs and worked on a paid family leave bill.

The question is whether he can raise the money to mount a statewide campaign to attract voters in areas of the state where he’s not as well known.

Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Kristy Noble said there have been “rumblings of different folks” considering a run from around the state, as well. She said Allred would make a good candidate because he has shown he can work across the aisle. She called him “a rising star in Democratic party.”

An important part of the state where Allred would have to widen his popularity is Houston, and that city may have its own local contender: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is term-limited out of the mayor’s office at the end of this year. Houston mayors may run for up to three two-year terms in office, and Turner is finishing his sixth year in office this year.

Turner will leave office as a popular mayor of the state’s largest city. His constituency is about three times larger than a Texas congressional district. So more people have voted for Turner than for Allred.

State Rep. Julie Johnson

On the other hand, in Texas history no mayor of a Texas city has ever gone on to become Texas governor or a U.S. senator.

And as mayor, Turner was unable to get HERO — the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance — reinstated. So Houston remains the only large city without a nondiscrimination law. Turner was a state representative prior to becoming mayor, and Equality Texas gave Turner an A+ rating when he was in the House, placing him in the top 10 of Texas lawmakers in 2015.

Julian Castro, former secretary of HUD, is also sending up trial balloons about a U.S. Senate run.

Before serving in the Obama administration, Castro was elected mayor of San Antonio for two terms.

Whoever runs, Noble said, “We want strong Democrats running against Ted Cruz.”

If Allred does run for the U.S. Senate seat, that opens the District 32 seat that he’s held since 2019.

Last week, the Dallas Morning News speculated that state Rep. Julie Johnson, one of the eight openly LGBTQ members of the Texas House, is considering a run. Johnson’s office wouldn’t confirm or deny that the state lawmaker is thinking about running for Congress, but others are talking about her as a well-qualified candidate.

Johnson, whose district includes Coppell and Addison and covers parts of Irving, Farmer’s Branch and Carrollton, is a founding member of the Texas House LGBT Caucus. She’s also one of the Texas Democratic Party’s fundraising powerhouses.

Noble said that if Allred does decide to challenge Cruz, and if Johnson considers making a bid for Congress, Johnson has many connections throughout the state and in D.C. in addition to her fundraising skills.

“She’s an effective legislator for her constituents,” Noble said. “And she’s a great team player. She supports candidates up and down the ballot.”
Noble said if Allred’s seat does come open, she expects a competitive race on both sides to fill it.

One likely — and well-qualified — candidate is Rep. Victoria Neave Creado. In the same Dallas Morning News article, Neave, whose legislative district also falls into Allred’s congressional district, said she was happy where she is and not interested in a congressional race.