AUSTIN (Nexstar) – Congress is on summer break and that’s giving one Representative an opportunity to ramp up his campaign for higher office. Dallas-area Democratic Congressman Colin Allred hopes to challenge Ted Cruz in next year’s race for U.S. Senate.

“I think we know as Texans that we can’t afford six more years of Ted Cruz,” Allred said during an interview with Capitol Correspondent Ryan Chandler. Allred just started what he calls the Lone Star Listening Tour. He’s hoping the statewide effort will resonate with voters.

“I have a record of running in tough races and telling what I think is a unique story about growing up in this state, understanding who we are, being raised by a single mother, going to public school, making it to Baylor, making it to the NFL, becoming a civil rights lawyer and ultimately, being in Congress,” Allred said, summarizing his personal history.

“I believe that in this election, we’re going to reject the divisiveness of Ted Cruz,” Allred added.

But if Allred wants to take on Cruz, he first has to win in next year’s March primary election. State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) will be on the ballot. Gutierrez is also in the midst of a statewide campaign tour.

Like Allred, Gutierrez is looking ahead to November 2024.

“He’s not my opponent,” Gutierrez said of Allred. “My opponent is Ted Cruz.”

Allred raised more than $6.2 million in the two months after announcing his campaign. Despite trailing in fundraising, Gutierrez vowed to win the primary.

“I’ll outwork Colin Allred and I’ll outwork Ted Cruz,” Gutierrez said.

Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas since the 1990’s. Allred, a former NFL football player, hopes to end that losing streak.

“We’re going to build on what Beto did in 2018,” Allred said, referencing the campaign of Democrat Beto O’Rourke, which came within three points of incumbent Cruz. Allred hinted at a strategy to win independent voters.

“I know what it takes to win in tough races and I know what it takes to get folks who maybe usually don’t vote to turn out, but also how to help folks who maybe don’t see themselves reflected in this version of the Republican Party have a home where they can go because Ted Cruz is the extremist in this race,” Allred said.

Cruz’s campaign previously painted the two Democrats as being on the extremes. A campaign spokesman issued a statement in July, shortly after Gutierrez joined the race.

“Texans will now get to watch Colin Allred and Roland Gutierrez slug it out for who can be the most radical leftist in the state,” the Cruz campaign statement read.