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Texas primary spotlight: An interview with U.S. Rep. Colin Allred

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred.
Christopher Connelly
Democratic U.S. Rep. Colin Allred is hoping to face Sen. Ted Cruz in the general election this fall.

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred is one of several Democratic candidates vying to challenge Ted Cruz for his U.S. Senate seat in the fall.

Allred is currently serving his third term representing House District 32, which covers parts of the Dallas area.

He joined Texas Standard to talk about his priorities and goals ahead of the March 5 Texas primary. Early voting begins Tuesday, Feb. 20.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

Texas Standard: You made some headlines when you voted to condemn President Joe Biden’s handling of the border. Why did you decide to cast that vote? And how does your policy position differ from the current administration?  

Colin Allred: Well, you know, as I’ve said, that was a difficult vote for me. But as I looked at it, I thought, this is really a vote about whether or not you think the status quo is acceptable. And coming off of a month when we’d seen a record number of crossings that I hadn’t seen what I thought was a requisite urgency of response, I thought the status quo wasn’t acceptable.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I agree with what I think our governor is doing, which I think is inconsistent with our values. This is a federal province, though, and we have to have federal action. And I’m glad to see that now there seems to be a lot of urgency around this coming from not only the White House, but also, more and more, from Congress.

But the reason we haven’t gotten anything done is because of folks like Ted Cruz, who basically took down a border security package that had many things that had been asked for for some time, not because of the policy, but because he wants to have the issue to run on in November. And to me, that’s unacceptable for Texans.

Let me ask you, what is President Biden getting wrong that you would change? 

Well, it’s more about timing and urgency. I think that we have had an ongoing crisis, and we should have been much more urgent in responding to it. I think that’s been true across multiple administrations.

But I certainly think that particularly for Texans – and my family is from Brownsville; my grandfather was a customs officer for our border communities – federal inaction then leads them to have to bear the brunt of that. And so that’s why I think it’s so important that we act.

I think it’s also why you saw Vicente Gonzales and Henry Cuellar, both Democrats, who also voted the same way, because I think we’re trying to say, let’s get going on this, and let’s have much more urgency.

I think a lot of Democrats might say, however, that if you lean into the Republican position on this, you run the risk of supporting inhumane policies – policies that are contrary to basic principles of the Democratic Party. What would you say to them?

I don’t think that acknowledging there’s a problem means that you agree with their solution. And I think we have to be very clear about that: Number one, we do have a crisis of the border. Number two, we do have a broken immigration system. That does not mean that we need to meet that crisis with inhumane tactics or barbarity.

And certainly saying that there’s a problem doesn’t mean you agree with what I think Governor Abbott and others have advocated for. But we do have to acknowledge the problem and then say, okay, let’s get going on how we can solve this.

» MORE: Texas primary spotlight: An interview with state Sen. Roland Gutierrez

I want to move on to another big issue that’s come up this primary season: the conflict between Israel and Hamas. What’s your position on a cease-fire in Gaza?  

It’s a very complicated issue because it’s not so simple as saying, “Well, let’s just have a cease-fire.” Number one, we’re not one of the warring parties here. We obviously have a role to play.

And I am devastated both for the terrible loss of life on October 7, the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust, and I have no sympathy at all for Hamas, which is a terrorist organization. And I’m also heartbroken for what I see as innocent Palestinians who have borne too much of the brunt, oftentimes because of Hamas’s actions.

I think what we can productively do is try and reach a negotiated agreement, in which the over 100 hostages that Hamas still holds come home, and in which they are also left no longer in a position to be able to conduct another attack like October 7. And that’s one of my concerns with just being simplifying it down to calling for a cease-fire at this moment without the conditions that have to be put in place.

If you were in Ted Cruz’s seat the day that the Senate’s considering that foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel, would you vote in favor or oppose it?  

Well, it will come to us here in the House of Representatives, ultimately, and I will vote in favor of it. I am strongly in favor of supporting democracies around the world. I was a voting rights lawyer before I came to Congress, and one of my focuses in Congress domestically has been protecting our democracy. But I’m also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And one of my focuses, in terms of foreign policy, has been protecting vulnerable democracies around the world.

What we’re talking about here is supporting Ukraine in Russia’s unjust and brutal war against them. And also supporting Taiwan, who is looking at what’s happening in Ukraine, and in our own politics very closely, wondering if we’re giving a green light to China to invade them. As well as aid for Israel, as well as humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza. So to me, this is a package that meets many of those needs. And I hope that we can get it done.

I notice that you mentioned Ted Cruz’s name, but you haven’t talked much about the person many consider your main primary opponent. What do you see as a main position or issue that you would say sets you apart from Roland Gutierrez? 

Well, the way I’ve run in this primary is by talking about what I want to do and what I see as necessary for us as a state, and going forward. And so I’ve kept my focus on Ted Cruz because I think that’s also the decision that is faced by Texas Democrats here in this primary: who is best positioned to beat Ted Cruz.

I’ve shown that I can do that by beating a 22-year incumbent Republican who had been unopposed in the previous election in a really tough race and having a tough reelection. So I’m battle-tested in that regard and have shown we can do it. But that also can then serve in a way that brings us together.

And I’m really proud of my record of being the most bipartisan member of the Texas delegation, while also standing up for my values, being a leading voice for democracy and for voting rights, for standing up for LGBTQ rights, for making sure that we’re going to restore the right to make your own health care decisions, including access to an abortion. These are all things that I’ve shown that I will do in the Congress.

I’ve not been a lightning rod. I’m not somebody who takes advantage of every political opportunity to try and throw bombs. I’ve been someone who’s tried to bring us together, and I think it’s possible to do that. And that’s also what I think Texas Democrats want.

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Some people, especially progressives, would say, well, you know, bipartisanship is one thing, but cozying up to Republicans is quite another. And they may hear what you’re saying here about bipartisanship and think, well, wait a minute, we would vote Republican if that was the way we wanted to go. 

How do you get bipartisan agreement if you are working with Republicans, many of whom are taking their cues from Donald Trump?  

Well, we have to. You know, that’s just the truth. We have to be able to work together. And every day, folks go to work and get things done with the people they work with, who they disagree with. And I think they expect their elected officials to do the same thing.

I have always put what I think is best for my district – and hopefully when I’m in the Senate, for my state – first, ahead of the politics. And my experience is that that’s also what most Texas Democrats want. We want folks who will get things done.

I think when you’re raised by a single mother like I am, you really don’t have time for theoretical ideas. You need things that are actually going to become law and actually help folks. And oftentimes that does mean it has to be bipartisan. You don’t sacrifice your values when you’re doing that. But it is possible to work together in certain areas so you can get things done. That’s what I think folks expect.

If you were to defeat your rivals in the Democratic primary and go on to defeat Sen. Ted Cruz, what would be your No. 1 priority?  

When you have a situation like what we’re experiencing in Texas now, where we have an almost total ban on abortion, you see that your freedom is restricted. We have counties saying that you can’t drive through the county if you’re going to use those roads to access an abortion – that’s not freedom. How are we going to enforce that?

But also the ongoing assaults on the right to vote that have been going on for some time, that have been put on steroids since the last election based on the big lie. I was there on January 6th. I saw how close we came to losing our democracy. We have to restore that right and protect our democracy going forward.

But also your freedom to, if you work hard and play by the rules, that you should be able to get ahead. And that’s increasingly harder for Texans across our state. And so I will make sure that we lower your health care costs as we expand coverage, that we invest in the job programs that allow you to chase your version of the American dream.

What would you say to those still trying to decide how they want to vote in the primaries?  

I’m a fourth-generation Texan. I was born and raised in Dallas by a single mother who was a public school teacher. It was a big deal for my family when I got a scholarship to play football at Baylor University. It was surprising to me that I got a chance to play in the NFL.

And I’ve served my state both as a voting rights lawyer, and now in my sixth year in Congress, in a way that I think has shown that it’s possible to work with others to get things done while also standing up for our values.

We have a senator who for 12 years now has divided us up, pitted us against each other, who abandoned us when 30 million Texans were freezing in the dark. Who attacked our democracy on Jan. 6. Somebody who I think doesn’t reflect our values.

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