Politics

Republicans Are Putting Everything They Have Behind Pete Sessions

Pete Sessions in 1998, during his first term in Congress.
Pete Sessions in 1998, during his first term in Congress. Susana Raab
Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump endorsed Rep. Pete Session, the incumbent in Texas' 32nd Congressional District. On its face, the Trump's seal of approval was nothing out of the ordinary, just another rote tweet from a president who's an endless source of them. What was attention grabbing was that this was the second time he's tweeted about Sessions in less than a month. It's not just the president who's jumping in to help Sessions in the face of a serious challenge from former NFL player and President Barack Obama appointee Colin Allred. Monday, Vice President Mike Pence is parachuting into Texas to campaign for Sessions and Senator Ted Cruz, who's locked in a tough re-election battle of his own with U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a right-wing super PAC, is also running ads against Allred, painting him as, stop us if you've heard this one before, "too liberal for Texas."
The cavalry is coming to Sessions' aid following the release of a series of polls, including one by Siena College and The New York Times, that show the race as a toss-up, but Rice University political science Professor Mark Jones says the timing of the help for Sessions is probably more about the calendar than fear of Allred. Jones says that if the election were a football game, he'd view Sessions as about a 7-point favorite, thanks to the 32nd District's long history of voting strongly Republican for Sessions and in judicial races. 
click to enlarge Colin Allred at White Rock Lake - COLIN ALLRED FOR CONGRESS
Colin Allred at White Rock Lake
Colin Allred for Congress

"Now is about the time when people start paying attention to the actual election." — Mark Jones

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"Now is about the time when people start paying attention to the actual election," Jones says. "Outside of the punditry and the politically active, real people are now starting to slowly think about the midterm election. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, the time between now and October is the time to reach those voters."

Despite the national attention being paid to the contest between Sessions and Allred, Allred is still largely unknown within District 32, which covers a swath of North Dallas and DFW's northern suburbs, according to Jones. Someone who isn't all that tuned in might catch a snippet of Pence's visit thanks to TV coverage and develop an opinion about the challenger.

"One of the advantages of Pence coming and the focus on CD32 is — according to that New York Times poll — half the voters in CD32 don't know anything about Colin Allred," Jones says. "The more that Pence can come and say, 'Pete Sessions is a good conservative Republican and Colin Allred is radical, liberal Nancy Pelosi Democrat,' that does inform the electorate. To the extent that you're going to drive those people with low information, you might give them a more negative opinion."

So far, Sessions and Allred have had a single public debate, held on the afternoon of Sept. 19 at the Dallas Rotary Club. This week, Allred sent Sessions a letter requesting a televised debate, but the two candidates have yet to agree on a date or terms for a potential debate. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young