Control of the US Senate Runs Through Arizona and Texas. Dems Come Calling on Seattle


Two of the most polarizing, contentious personalities in America’s public life are Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and MAGA Republican Kari Lake, who is running for Senate in Arizona while pushing conspiracy allegations and litigation challenging her 2022 loss for governor.  

These two may prove to be Democrats’ assets this year. Holding Arizona, and possibly upsetting Cruz, are keys to D’s uphill fight to keep control of the Senate. The stakes go far beyond life in Washington, D.C. to daily-life issues ranging from women’s access to abortion, child tax credits, survival of the Affordable Care Act, and protecting voting rights.

Cruz’s and Lake’s likely foes are two up-and-coming Democratic House members. Cruz is being challenged by U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, a National Football League linebacker turned lawyer, once with Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie. The Texas race is close: a recent Emerson survey puts Cruz ahead by a single point, and the incumbent senator has warned Fox News viewers he is in a “very tough reelection race.”

Lake is likely to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Harvard-educated former Marine deployed in Iraq.  Gallego is running for the seat of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat-turned-Independent. Signs are that Sinema won’t run for reelection as she has stopped raising money. Arizona had a Senate showdown in 2022 with Sen. Mark Kelly turning back MAGA Republican Blake Masters.

Allred and Gallego are raising money together as a tag team. In Gallego’s words, “We are running in red to moderate states so we have to reach out beyond our borders.” They hit Seattle on Sunday for a well-attended fundraiser. Our region is a wellspring of Democratic donors — some bigtime — prompting a parade of president aspirants who came calling in 2020.

Both Senate hopefuls are riding tailwinds while facing headwinds. Republican blood is on the floor in Arizona. Lake recently forced the resignation of GOP State Chairman Jeff DeWitt. She made public a recorded conversation in which DeWitt dangled inducements – a job and money – to get her out of the Senate race. The reason, he explained, Lake’s “limited appeal with moderate and independent voters.”

Lake is a former Phoenix TV anchor and a Trump ally, who looks (and sounds) a lot like the Angela Lansbury character in The Manchurian Candidate. Emulating Trump, she has taken posthumous hits at Sen. John McCain. At a pre-election 2022 rally, Lake declared: “We don’t have any McCain Republicans here, do we? Alright, get the hell out.” With these words, she may have lost the governorship.

In red state Texas, Ted Cruz beat challenger Beto O’Rourke by only 2.6 percent in 2018. Cruz uses social media to wage culture wars. On X (the former Twitter) he’s described the U.S. military as “emasculated” and “woke,” and engaged in an ongoing feud with comedian Jimmy Kimmel. He has characterized Barbie as “Chinese Communist propaganda.”

Allred brings up airport pictures of Cruz jetting off to Cancun during the 2021 deep freeze when parts of Texas’ electrical grid went out, leaving thousands without power. The Houston Chronicle called for him to resign. Nor has the state forgotten that unexcused absence, witness lusty booing of Cruz during last fall’s American League baseball playoffs in Houston.

Cruz is widely unpopular with colleagues.  Sen. Lindsay Graham, a fellow Republican, once put it, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would vote to convict you.” An ex-GOP House Speaker has described Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh” and “a miserable human being.”

The headwinds for Allred and Gallego? Getting out their party’s voters. “What’s happening in Texas is [that] this is the most difficult state in which to vote,” Allred told the Sunday fundraiser. Republicans have made it so. The state’s GOP rulers have outlawed drop boxes, and college students are not allowed to use their photo IDs as proof of registration.

Allred noted: “We have a deep sense of apathy. . . People ask, ‘What is this to me?’”  It runs deepest, he said,  among African-American voters.  In Arizona, said Gallego, “Young people are not paying attention right now.” The youth vote was vital defeating Kari Lake and sending Kelly back to the Senate in 2022. The open question: Will young voters turn out this fall?

Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate in a quarter century to carry Arizona. (Trump tried to steal it back with his fake elector scheme.) Biden lost Texas by five points. He’s trailing polls in both states so far in 2024. On Sunday’s fundraiser in Seattle, Gallego and Cruz danced around low presidential approval poll numbers. “I think we must support the President, but we must name the villain,” said Allred.

Allred depicts Cruz at the heart of heartless policies, citing the case of a Texas wife and mother, Kate Cox, who sought an abortion for a fetus diagnosed with a lethal condition whose complications threatened her life and fertility. She was rebuffed and forced to travel go out of state to end her pregnancy.

“This is not an unintended consequence of extreme policies – it is exactly what folks like Ted Cruz wanted and a predictable outcome of these policies,” said Allred. Cruz, a fierce abortion opponent, stayed mum on the Kate Cox case. “Just call our press office,” he snapped to an NBC reporter who asked his stance.

“We need to break out of this craziness,” Allred said here. “When we beat ‘em in Texas, we will beat this thing in the Republican Party. It will actually be a win for the Republican Party. Help me overcome this reality in Texas, that we are this crazy red state.”

No Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas since 1994. Not so Arizona. The D’s are winning in the land of Barry Goldwater, aided by Republican infighting and an extremist fringe. Then-President Donald Trump was pointedly not invited to John McCain’s funeral.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.


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