A new campaign backed by an initial seven-figure investment launched Wednesday with one mission: to defeat Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
Ousting Cruz is a longshot in Texas, which has not elected a Democrat in a statewide race in nearly 30 years. But facing a tough map, many Democrats see the state as their party’s best Senate pick-up opportunity in 2024, and Lose Cruz, a new campaign launching on June 14, represents a significant investment in defeating him.
The founder is Sean Haynes, a Texas strategist who has worked for numerous Democratic politicians as well as Republican former Texas State House Speaker Joe Straus. Haynes says he was encouraged to found the effort by donors and other elected officials he’s worked with in the past. It is currently funded primarily by Texas-based donors, but the group is in early conversations with national donors as well, according to Haynes. A spokesperson for the campaign says it will launch with significant resources and expects to raise millions of dollars more, but declined to share a specific figure on the record.
The newly-formed Sensible Americans PAC is responsible for launching the campaign, which is designed to appeal to Texans across the political spectrum. “I think it’s really important that right now we put a lot of emphasis highlighting Cruz’s record, and sort of lay the groundwork for what’s going to be a really contentious Senate race in Democrats’ number one pick up opportunity in the country,” says Sawyer Hackett, a senior adviser to the operation. “And that’s a somewhat sad state of affairs for Democrats in the Senate, but it is our number one pick-up opportunity.”
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Lose Cruz’s senior advisers include Hackett, a long-time adviser to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; Matt Angle, founder and director of the Lone Star Project; Olivia Julianna, an activist and organizer who raised more than $2 million for abortion funds after being attacked by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz; and Abhi Rahman, who most recently worked as a senior adviser and spokesperson for former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign.
Among the Senate seats up for election next year, Texas and Florida are widely considered to be the most competitive states currently represented by Republican incumbents. Three of the other seats up in 2024 are held by Democratic incumbents in states that backed former President Donald Trump, meaning Democrats have little room for error if they hope to keep control of the chamber after 2024. A victory in Texas would improve the party’s odds. Texas Rep. Colin Allred, running in the Democratic primary, has already attracted attention as a candidate who could have a chance to beat Cruz; a poll conducted last month found him running 5 points behind Cruz. Still, Cruz holds the approval of nearly 80% of Republicans in his state, according to The Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, and 45% of Texans overall.
As the Democratic primary plays out over the next several months, Lose Cruz plans to attack the incumbent on his record in office, his position on abortion and other issues, and his 2021 trip to Cancún in the wake of a devastating winter storm in his home state.
But the strategists behind the effort hope to make clear that voters don’t have to align with national Democrats to reject Cruz. “What a lot of people, even a lot of my fellow Democrats, fail to see is that in Texas, there is a pretty big center that doesn’t think of themselves as Democrats or Republican,” says Angle. “But for the last 15 or 20 years, they defaulted to Republicans when they don’t know much else. And so it’s really important for us to provide the information that they need so that they can make a more rational, informed decision around politics… We’re not trying to raise blue banners and blue flags or change people’s fundamental beliefs.”
Julianna, a 20-year old who emphasized that she’s excited to be a young person focused on more than youth strategy, has first-hand experience with the sort of voter the group hopes to sway. “My father, God love him, is a lifelong conservative,” says Julianna, “And I often joke, ‘If you told an AI to spit out a Texas voter, it’d be my dad.’ He’s a mid 50-year old, Latino man, government employee … grew up in rural Texas, lives in rural Texas, has kids. Me and my dad disagree on politics all the time. And the one time that we can sit there and be like, ‘Yeah, you know, we agree about this,’ is quite literally when we’re talking about how much we dislike the fact that Ted Cruz is our senator.”
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