Two Texas Democrats detail how they hope to topple U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz

From left: State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, and U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas. The two are running to be the Democratic nominee to face Ted Cruz in the 2024 senatorial race. (Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune | Graeme Sloan/Sipa Usa Via Reuters, Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune | Graeme Sloan/Sipa Usa Via Reuters)

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U.S. Rep. Colin Allred and state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who will face each other in the 2024 Democratic primary as they seek to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, presented competing visions Saturday during The Texas Tribune Festival panels.

Cruz is seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate next year.

Allred, D-Dallas, stressed he would tackle high-profile issues where lawmakers disagree the most — including abortion and gun reform — by working with both Democrats and Republicans. Although the parties have fundamental disagreements on both issues, “there are bipartisan deals to be made right now,” he said.

“There’s no legislation you can do on your own,” Allred said. “It has to be collaborative.”

He said he would seek compromises on background checks, red flag laws, and raising the age requirement for purchasing firearms. Texas does not require background checks to purchase firearms, nor does it have red flag laws, which enable law enforcement to confiscate a weapon if a judge decides an individual is a risk to themselves or others.

Allred also called Texas’ abortion law a “disaster.” After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Texas trigger laws went into effect, prohibiting abortion in the overwhelming majority of cases except to save the life of the mother.

“The stories are heartbreaking,” he said. “They’re talking about limiting interstate travel for women in the state … it’s unacceptable.” Allred said he’s confident that Congress could pass laws to enshrine reproductive rights for the entire country.

At a separate panel, Gutierrez took an opposing stance to Allred’s view of bipartisanship.

“There is no amount of political speak or so-called bipartisan incrementalism that I’m interested in,” he said.

Gutierrez said Republicans in Congress aren’t interested in bipartisanship, so “We must fight them tooth and nail at everything they throw at us.”

Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde — the South Texas city where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers with an AR-15 style rifle in May 2022 — said he would seek a federal assault weapons ban if he’s elected to the Senate.

In the wake of the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School, Gutierrez slammed law enforcement’s response and Texas’ loose gun laws. In this year’s legislative session, he introduced four pieces of legislation aimed at increasing gun safety and accountability for law enforcement officials.

None of the bills passed.

The San Antonio Democrat did not say concretely what actions he would pursue in Congress on abortion rights.

As The Texas Tribune's signature event of the year, The Texas Tribune Festival brings Texans closer to politics, policy and the day’s news from Texas and beyond. Browse on-demand recordings and catch up on the biggest headlines from Festival events at the Tribune’s Festival news page.