By PAUL J. WEBER and SEAN MURPHY Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrats in search of flipping a U.S. Senate seat were watching Texas closely on Super Tuesday to see who voters nominate against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whose underdog challengers have cast as vulnerable after a narrow margin of victory in 2018.

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL player and three-term congressman from Dallas, and state Sen. Roland Gutierrez have drawn most of the attention in a primary that again finds Texas Democrats in pursuit of a breakthrough candidate. No Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas in 30 years, the longest losing streak of its kind in the U.S.

Elections 2024-Texas Senate

Despite that, Democrats believe Texas and Florida are their best shot for upsets in November as they try to preserve a slim 51-49 advantage in the Senate. That majority includes West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who is not seeking reelection and whose seat is likely to flip Republican.

Seven other Democrats are also running in the Senate primary in Texas, including state Rep. Carl Sherman. The race heads to a May 28 runoff if no candidate wins a vote majority.

Allred, who would become Texas' first Black senator if elected, has raised more than $21 million since getting in the race. That's significantly more than his primary challengers, whom the civil rights lawyer has largely ignored during the primary while keeping his attacks focused on Cruz.

Allred, 40, made headlines in January when he was among 14 House Democrats who backed a Republican resolution in Congress that criticized President Joe Biden's handling of the border. Gutierrez criticized Allred for the vote, accusing him of siding "with GOP extremists," and Cruz spokesperson Macarena Martinez called the vote a "disingenuous attempt to posture on the border."

Allred said he did not agree with all the language in the resolution but said he wanted to see more urgency at the federal level when it comes to the border.

"For me, it was about sending a signal that, you know, what we have been doing is not working," Allred said in an interview last week during early voting in Texas. "We have to change something."

Cruz only narrowly beat Beto O'Rourke for reelection in 2018 by less than 3 percentage points. It was the closest Democrats have come in decades to winning a statewide seat and happened during a midterm election that wound up being a strong year for Democrats nationally.

Texas Democrats have struggled to recapture that momentum since then. O'Rourke lost by double digits when he challenged Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in 2022.

"Things are shifting in the state. It takes a long time," said Jared Hockeman, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Cameron County along the U.S.-Mexico border. "We recognize that."
Murphy reported from Oklahoma City.

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