Welcome to “Meet a Competitive House Race,” a Paste feature in which we highlight—you guessed it—a competitive 2018 House race from somewhere in America. Between now and election day, we’ll hopefully hit them all. You can see a full list of other House races we’ve profiled at the bottom of this page.
What’s the deal with today’s district? Where is it?
Texas’ 32nd district is located in the northeast portion of the state and includes the major cities of Dallas, Garland, Mesquite, Murphy, Parker and plenty of other urban areas. The district is composed of only two counties, Collin and Dallas, and is pretty far from the chaos of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Who the hell lives there? How do they vote?
The population is mainly white at 51.6 percent but the Hispanic population follows closely behind at 25.8 percent. Dallas is the largest city in this district and has long been a destination for legal and illegal immigrants from the U.S.-Mexico border. Dallas County as a whole has been consistently one of the few blue counties in Texas, while Collin County is staunchly red. However, the district voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, despite most of Texas siding with Trump.
Is the anti-Trump effect going to screw the Republican?
It’s probable after the way this urban district voted in the 2016 presidential election.
Give me some more background
The 2016 presidential election left Republican incumbent Pete Sessions vulnerable after his district voted for Clinton instead of Trump. This district obviously hasn’t liked Trump since the very beginning, and based on his term thus far, they certainly aren’t going to like him now. According to the state’s annual Texas Lyceum poll (via Dallas News), the majority of Texans at 61 percent do not support Trump’s border wall. The majority of Texans at 62 percent also think that immigration helps the U.S.
Sessions has voted in line with Trump’s positions 98.7 percent of the time. These votes include yea to all of Trump’s immigration laws, such as the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” and “Kate’s Law,” which, if it passes, would “increase criminal penalties for individuals in the country illegally who were convicted of certain crimes, deported, and then re-entered the U.S. illegally.”
Sessions may not stay in the House in 2019 if he keeps voting for Trump’s immigration laws in a district that didn’t vote for Trump and favors immigration, especially with the zero-tolerance policy backlash that the administration is facing right now.
What’s up with the Republican(s)?
According to Ballotpedia, Sessions was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1997 for Texas’s 5th district. In 2003, he left the 5th District seat and took the 32nd. He easily won the Republican primary in March with 79 percent of the vote, probably due to his status as a “rank-and-file Republican”—he is a reliable Republican vote in the House whom the party can always count on. He has also raised the most campaign contributions at $2,049,158.
However, Sessions faced a scandal recently when he took a secret trip to Venezuela in April. The trip involved meeting with President Nicolas Maduro and Sessions’ spokeswoman Caroline Booth referred to it as a peace meeting, per the Associated Press. Apparently the trip “raised some eyebrows in Washington” and probably with his constituents, as well.
Even before the Venezuela scandal, Sessions was flailing. In March, he faced over 2,000 of his constituents during his town hall at Richardson High School. The crowd brought up multiple concerns, such as public school funding and the wall Trump plans to build. Sessions’ comments on the wall weren’t well-received by the crowd, although they groaned a little less when he stated the wall should not go through Big Bend National Park. However, the crowd really turned against him when he was asked if he agreed that Trump should release his tax returns. The congressman could not answer the question directly and talked around the topic. The mixed crowd, including his loyal Republicans, weren’t happy with the meeting.
What’s up with the Democrat(s)?
Facing off against Sessions is Colin Allred, who beat his opponent Lillian Salerno in the Democratic primary runoff with 69 percent of the vote. Allred, a voting rights lawyer and former Tennessee Titans and Baylor University linebacker, promises to be a check on Trump. Appearing at Dallas’ Ozona Bar and Grill in May, he said to his fans and volunteers, “I will be your candidate if you’re worried about the direction of this country. We know that we might have come here on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Allred’s campaign themes include voting rights, women’s rights, improving public education, creating jobs, LGBT rights, gun violence prevention and healthcare. However, his platform appears to be missing immigration as a topic. This may be a mistake, due to how much immigration and the current immigration issues impact his district. He has, however, made a statement in support of the Dream Act while criticizing Sessions for not supporting Dreamers.
What do the polls say?
This race has been declared a toss-up by Cook Political Report, giving Allred a chance to steal the seat.
What’s weird about the district?
CPR may have declared this district a toss-up but The Hill reports that they may have “overstated the likelihood of a Democratic victory” because of the presence of straight-ticket voting. As The Hill notes, “In 2014 and 2016 the median Republican statewide judicial candidate won 24 and 13 percent more than the median Democratic candidate in CD-32, suggesting Sessions begins the contest with a built-in partisan advantage of around 18 percent in 2018.” Ultimately, this means the 32nd District may lean Republican unless the district decides to vote based on their disapproval of Trump, rather than straight-ticket for their party.
Give me a prediction
Despite the straight-ticket voting that sways this district to the right, we’re choosing Allred as the winner of this race. The current nationwide backlash against Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, Texas’ positive opinions on immigration, the district’s vote for Clinton in 2016 and Sessions’ voting record all suggest that this district will most likely do anything to move themselves further from Trump.
—New Jersey 7th: Leonard Lance vs. Tom Malinowski, Most Likely
—Minnesota 2nd: Jason Lewis vs. Angie Craig or Jeff Erdmann
—New York 19th: John Faso vs. Antonio Delgado or Pat Ryan
—California 10th: Jeff Denham vs. Michael Eggman or Josh Harder
—Nebraska 2nd: Bacon vs. Brad Ashford or Kara Eastman
—California 48th: Rohrabacher, vs. some Democrat, eventually
—Florida 26th: Carlos Curbelo vs. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
—Colorado 6th: Mike Coffman vs. Jason Crow
—Washington 8th: Dino Rossi vs. too many infighting Dems
—Iowa 1st: Blum vs. Probably Abby Finkenauer