HOUSTON — Representative Colin Allred, a Dallas-area Democrat who defeated an incumbent Republican to gain his seat in 2018, announced on Wednesday that he would challenge Senator Ted Cruz of Texas next year.
In a three-minute video, Mr. Allred, 40, a former civil rights lawyer who played as a linebacker in the N.F.L., presented himself as a bipartisan politician whose working-class upbringing would enable him to overcome the long odds: No Democrat has won statewide office in Texas since the 1990s.
“We don’t have to be embarrassed by our senator,” he said, after describing Mr. Cruz as someone who “cheered on the mob” during the Capitol riot and who left Texas to go to the resort city of Cancun, Mexico, during the 2021 winter storm and power grid failure that killed hundreds of Texans. “We can get a new one.”
Mr. Allred came into office riding a wave of Democratic enthusiasm that nearly unseated Mr. Cruz during his last re-election fight, a 2018 victory over Beto O’Rourke, then a little-known representative from El Paso. Mr. O’Rourke lost by about 2.5 percentage points, a thin margin in the Republican-dominated state.
The same year, Mr. Allred defeated Representative Pete Sessions, a Republican, in a Dallas-area district that has since been redrawn to become more favorable for Democrats.
Almost from the start, Mr. Allred has shown an ability to attract interest from donors, outraising Mr. Sessions and continuing to demonstrate the kind of strong fund-raising ability that would be necessary in a statewide race in Texas.
Mr. Cruz is highly unpopular among Texas Democrats, but he has so far survived all attempts to oust him.
Enthusiasm is also low among many Texas Democrats, who watched Mr. O’Rourke lose badly to Gov. Greg Abbott last year despite his well-funded campaign.
And Mr. Allred, whose decision to enter the race began emerging in news reports before Wednesday’s announcement, has seen expectations for his campaign set low: The magazine Texas Monthly suggested that he was a “replacement-level candidate.” In other words, as good as any other Democrat but not a star.
Nick Maddux, a spokesman for Mr. Cruz’s campaign, described Mr. Allred as a “far-left radical” in a statement on Wednesday. “His voting record is completely out-of-touch with Texas,” he said. “For over a decade, Sen. Cruz has been leading the fight for jobs, freedom, and security in Texas.”
Mr. Allred’s announcement video acknowledged that he was a long shot, presenting himself as an underdog who “never knew” his father, and pulled himself up into elite football, law school and Congress. He said he would focus on Texas issues, not divisive cultural ones, discussing rural hospital closures and prescription drug prices in his video.
As for Mr. Cruz, he said: “All hat, no cattle.”