Five and a half months from now, on another Tuesday night and after another watch party, Colin Allred and his supporters will know if all the hope they felt as they gathered in North Dallas on primary runoff night was real. They'll know whether longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions was beatable, if the weight of President Donald Trump and a changing Dallas County were too much for the 10-term congressman.
This Tuesday night, though, wasn't grounded in electoral reality. It was about what's possible, thanks to the chance Allred's earned by beating back a field stocked with strong candidates ready to end Sessions' time in Washington.
"For too long, the people of this district have not had a choice," Allred told a group of a couple hundred fans and volunteers at Ozona Bar and Grill on Tuesday. "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. Washington is broken right now, but I can tell you from growing up here in North Texas, there is nothing wrong with Washington that can't be fixed by what's right in North Texas."
With continued support from the small army of donors, activists and volunteers who have flocked to his campaign, Allred said, he can knock off Sessions.
"Pete Sessions has ignored the people of this district," Allred said. "He's played on our divisions. He's told us that it's someone else's fault. He's tried to pit us against each other. No more. We are Texans, we are Americans and we are in this together. We're going to take back this seat. It's going to be a long road, but if we stay together, I am confident that, in November on election night, there will be breaking news."
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Allred, a voting rights attorney and former Tennessee Titans and Baylor University linebacker, announced his campaign to challenge Sessions in April 2017. In the months that followed, former Hillary Clinton aide Ed Meier and Barack Obama appointee and small business owner Lillian Salerno got in the pool, along with former WFAA-TV investigative reporter Brett Shipp. Allred defeated Salerno in the runoff to win the nomination.
Throughout the primary, each of the candidates promised to be a check on Trump, pushed for comprehensive health care and accused Sessions of being out of touch with a district that Clinton won by 1.4 points over Trump in 2016.
Despite lacking Meier's fundraising prowess, Salerno's decades of experience and Shipp's name recognition, Allred built a strong base of support through frequent small events in his district.
"He has such a coherent, strong message about what he wants to do," Junius Heights resident Laura Koppang said about Allred. "I think he has a very good chance [to beat Sessions]. We've got a good machine on the ground knocking on doors. I know Republicans who said they can't vote for Pete Sessions. I think if we keep knocking on doors, we can pull it out."