State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a San Antonio Democrat who’s emerged as one of Texas’ most outspoken gun-reform advocates, confirmed he’s running to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Speculation has swirled since April that Gutierrez might run against Cruz. On Monday, he made his campaign official in a four-minute video that begins in Uvalde, a city in his district where 21 people lost their lives in one of the nation’s worst school shootings.
“I’m a proud gun owner and believer in the Second Amendment, but after 19 children and two teachers died, the Republicans would’t even allow us an opportunity to even talk about ways to protect our kids,” Gutierrez says in the clip. “It’s why we have to do something now.”
In the wake of the shooting, Gutierrez pushed for firearms reforms that he repeatedly referred to as “common sense.” Those included raising the age to buy AR-15-style rifles and strengthening background checks. None of his bills passed the Republican-dominated Legislature. Only one made it out committee, but was never scheduled for a floor vote.
Meanwhile, Cruz has a 100-percent approval rating from the NRA and has argued that hiring more armed police officers is the way to deal with the nation’s mass-shooting epidemic.
To square off against Cruz, Gutierrez will first need to get past U.S. Rep. Colin Allred of Dallas in the Democratic primary. Allred, an attorney and former NFL player, is a capable fundraiser who’s already racked up $6.2 million in contributions and transferred $2.4 million from his House campaign into his coffers.
After serving 12 years in the Texas House, Gutierrez won his Senate seat through a 2020 special election, during which he campaigned on legalizing cannabis.
During his time in the Senate, the former San Antonio councilman emerged as one of the state’s highest-profile lawmakers due his tenacity on gun reform. He also made headlines for angry speeches demanding that the state hold law enforcement officials responsible for waiting more than an hour before entering the classroom to confront the Uvalde school shooter.
During the current special session unfolding in Austin, Gutierrez successfully tacked an amendment onto the Senate’s plan to cut property taxes that would grant Texas public school teachers bonuses of up to $6,000.
Although Gutierrez goes into the race with an elevated profile, no Democrat has won a statewide election in Texas since 1994. Even so, Cruz only won his 2018 reelection by a narrow 2.6% against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rouke.
Since then, Cruz has racked up additional liabilities, including his highly publicized trip to Cancun while his constituents dealt with mass power outages during Winter Storm Uri. He also was among the loudest voices on Capital Hill challenging Joe Biden’s legitimate 2020 presidential victory.
During his campaign video, Gutierrez blasted Cruz’s Cancun jaunt as “indefensible.” He also skewered the senator for looking after the wealthy while the working class get “screwed over.”