Texas Democrats Learned Nothing From Gun-Ban Beto's Electoral Implosion

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

We're a little more than a week away from the Texas primaries, and at this point the safe bet is that Rep. Colin Allred will be the Democrat's nominee to take on Ted Cruz in November. Allred's positioned himself as the moderate in the primary, while state Sen. Roland Gutierrez has claimed he's the true progressive in the race. Given Texas's conservative leanings, it would make sense for Gutierrez to downplay his far-left bona fides, even in the primary, but he's instead running a campaign that's based largely on his demand for new gun control laws including a federal ban on "assault weapons." In fact, according to Texas Monthly, Gutierrez recently told a gathering of about 40 supporters that the reason he's running for the Senate seat is "because we absolutely need an assault weapons ban in this nation,” adding that "we are broken in this space and must demand real change on this issue.”

The Texas magazine wonders whether or not Gutierrez's message will resonate with voters, and so far the answer appears to be a resounding "no." The latest poll of primary voters found Gutierrez with just 14 percent support, compared to the 52 percent of primary voters who are backing Allred, and campaign consultants on both sides of the aisle say gun control just isn't a winning issue in the Lone Star State. 

“I worked in my first statewide election in 1972, and I’ve never, ever known when it has been a benefit to any candidate to say that they want to severely restrict or eliminate the right for people to purchase firearms,” said Steve Munisteri, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and the leader of one of its main voter-registration efforts. 

Jeff Dalton, a North Texas political consultant who led Democratic state senator Royce West’s unsuccessful 2020 campaign for U.S. Senate, was only slightly less dubious about framing a campaign around gun control. “I think it can be one of the things they talk about, but it can’t be issue number one,” said Dalton. “And when they talk about it, they need to moderate their stance and be clear they support the Second Amendment and the right to responsible gun ownership.” When pushed for specifics on which “responsible” gun message might resonate with most Texans, Dalton expressed hope that most “practical” voters agree with partial limits on certain “powerful” firearms and making access to those weapons harder.   

I don't think Dalton is going to get his wish. The same poll that found Allred cruising to victory over Gutierrez (and losing handily to Cruz in the general election) saw just 4 percent of respondents describing gun control as their top priority; an already absymsal figure for gun control supporters but one made even worse when you look at the crosstabs. 

Seven percent of Demcorats named gun control/gun violence as their top issue, ahead of the economy but behind abortion, inflation, and immigration. Meanwhile, just one percent of Republican voters described gun control/gun violence as their top issue, and zero percent of independents claimed it as their most important consideration. 

Gutierrez's running as Beto 2.0 isn't paying off for him, but it's important to recognize that while Allred isn't making gun control a major part of his campaign messaging, he's still quietly in favor of a semi-auto ban. The Democratic congressman was a co-sponsor of Rep. David Ciccillini's Assault Weaons Ban of 2023, but you'd never know that by perusing Allred's campaign website, where he claims to "strongly support" the right to keep and bear arms while reminiscing about learning riflrey at a YMCA summer camp as a kid. The only gun control measures Allred mentions on his website are storage mandates and the Safer Communities Act signed into law by Joe Biden in 2022. 

While Allred and his campaign team may have realized that running as an out-and-proud gun banner doesn't get you elected to statewide office in Texas, he's still going to be carrying around an "F" rating from the NRA and GOA. His rhetoric about finding "common-sense solutions that will simultaneously protect our constitutional rights – and save lives" rings hollow when he's done absolutely nothing to actually protect the rights he claims to hold so dear.

In fact, Allred's made one statement about the Second Amendment that will haunt him in the general election if, as expected, he emerges as the Democrats' nominee. In 2018, Allred declared that the United States would be a better place without the right to keep and bear arms; a position that's right in line with Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke's declaration that "hell yes" he was going to come for our guns. 

“Would it be better had it not been written? Of course. But there’s no chance that we’re going to repeal any of the Bill of Rights amendments. … It wouldn’t happen; it’s not within the bounds of reality in this country,” said Allred.

In addition to his belief that the Second Amendment shouldn’t have been written, he has voted for the “Protect Our Kids Act,” which raises the age to buy a semi-automatic centerfire rifle and shotgun from 18 to 21 and bans large-capacity magazines.

Allred has also stated that he supports red-flag laws, which allow a state court to issue an order to confiscate guns from anyone they see as a danger to others and themselves without due process.

In the video, Allred can also be heard saying that “within the confines of the accurately applied Second Amendment, we can do everything we want to do as far as regulating weapons and all that. But what we could do, I think, is there’s plenty of room within there to not allow people to have ‘weapons of war.’”

The media breathlessly reported a recent poll showing Allred and Cruz tied with 44 percent of likely voters, with another 12 percent undecided, but they've all but ignored the more recent poll from the University of Texas that has Cruz walloping Allred 46-32. I'm sure that the race will tighten up some once the Democrats have officially chosen their candidates, but if O'Rourke's support for a gun ban helped sink his gubernatorial campaign two years ago then Allred's similar support and his outright contempt for the Second Amendment are likely to pose insurmountable challenges for his campaign. 

If Democrats want to be competitive in Texas they're going to have to reject the gun-banning ways of the national party and start to rebuild a coalition of blue dogs who will honestly and sincerely defend the right to keep and bear arms. That clearly won't be happening this election cycle, but maybe after the Donkey Party gets its ass kicked once again in November they'll finally be ready to reckon with the damage their anti-gun positions are doing to their brand in the Lone Star State.