Roland Gutierrez, a Democratic state senator renowned for his vocal support of gun control measures since the Uvalde, Texas massacre last year, announced on Monday declaring his intention to run for Senator Ted Cruz’s seat next year.
Representing a district that extends from San Antonio to the Rio Grande, encompassing Uvalde, Gutierrez becomes the second prominent Democratic figure to join the race, setting the stage for a highly visible primary competition within the Texas Democratic Party. Back in May, Colin Allred, a second-term congressman from the Dallas area, also announced his candidacy.
In an intriguing twist, both candidates have pledged to direct their criticisms toward Cruz rather than engaging in intra-party disputes.
Gutierrez rose to national prominence due to his unwavering advocacy for gun control within the Texas Capitol following the tragic Uvalde incident that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers last May. Known for his frequent appearances on cable news networks, he has been vocal about not only the Uvalde tragedy and the subsequent delayed police response but also various other mass shootings.
In a video released on Monday to launch his campaign, Gutierrez stated, “I am a proud gun owner and a staunch believer in the Second Amendment. However, in the aftermath of the deaths of 19 children and two teachers, Republicans denied us the opportunity to even discuss ways to safeguard our kids. That’s why we must take action now.”
The topic of gun violence, along with the Republican party’s reluctance to implement gun control measures both at the state and federal level, is expected to be a central focus of Gutierrez’s campaign. Aides have indicated that Gutierrez will fearlessly showcase his passion on this issue, just as he has done during press conferences and televised appearances.
In May, after a gunman opened fire at a mall north of Dallas, killing eight people and injuring seven others, Mr. Gutierrez expressed his frustration, saying, “There is a special place in hell for people who have this kind of problem staring them square in the face and have done nothing about it.”
In contrast to Mr. Allred, who initially positioned himself as a bipartisan candidate, Mr. Gutierrez is taking a more confrontational and potentially divisive approach, hoping it will pave the way to unseating Mr. Cruz and securing a statewide office in Texas, a feat Democrats haven’t accomplished in decades.
During his tenure as a state senator, Mr. Gutierrez pushed for various measures to impose stricter gun purchase regulations. These included raising the minimum age for purchasing AR-15-style rifles and expanding background checks, both of which enjoy broad popularity in Texas, according to polls. However, none of these bills managed to pass the Legislature, which is dominated by Republicans.
Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso, supported the same set of gun control policies during his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign last year. Mr. Gutierrez believes his message will resonate differently, given his background as a gun-owning Hispanic representative from a predominantly rural district in South Texas. It’s worth noting that Mr. O’Rourke narrowly lost his challenge against Mr. Cruz in 2018.
Aides to Mr. Gutierrez emphasized that the Uvalde massacre would serve as a prime example of how low-income and working Texans are mistreated by individuals in power, including Mr. Cruz.
Mr. Gutierrez faces an initial fundraising disadvantage, as Mr. Allred’s campaign reported raising $6.2 million in just two months since announcing his candidacy. In contrast, Mr. Gutierrez was prohibited by Texas law from fundraising until mid-June, after the conclusion of the state’s legislative session.
However, Mr. Gutierrez’s aides expressed confidence that fundraising would not be a major obstacle, particularly in the general election. Democrats have historically demonstrated willingness and enthusiasm to invest money in attempts to defeat Mr. Cruz.