On this Halloween, it’s a scary situation for Republicans right now in a congressional race that’s received far less attention than that Senate contest between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke. And this congressional race could add up to more than just one seat. Texas Tribune Washington Bureau Chief Abby Livingston says in once reliably-red Richardson, Texas, a Georgia Democrat is making the rounds. Civil rights activist and longtime Rep. John Lewis came to the Dallas area this week to campaign for Colin Allred.
“What it means to a Capitol Hill reporter like me is that this race is absolutely top tier important to national Democrats because there is no person who can make the case for the party, who is a member of Congress, better than John Lewis,” Livingston says.
Allred is in a race against longtime Republican incumbent Pete Sessions who Livingston says is one of the most powerful members of Congress from Texas.
“He’s chairman of the Rules Committee, which sounds kind of boring, but it’s the sort of clearinghouse of all major pieces of legislation before it hits the floor,” Livingston says. “He’s known to have ambitions to run for conference-wide leadership and he is in real political trouble.”
Like Allred, Sessions is also drawing prominent national political figures to Texas to help campaign: House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence recently visited. Livingston says they’re coming here for Sessions, but also to fundraise in some of Texas’s most affluent areas, like Highland Park and Preston Hollow.
“This district encompasses … some of the biggest donors in Texas, so it’s an obvious place to fundraise if you want to bring in money to the national party beyond just Pete Sessions,” Livingston says.
The outcome of the race has more significance than just who will represent this district. Sessions is a powerful member of Congress; he’s a chairman who raises a lot of money, and was also in charge of the 2010 and 2012 campaign efforts for House Republicans.
“There is a little bit of a prize of taking down a chairman for the other party, which is something we saw in 2010 with the Democrats,” Livingston says.
Another reason this year’s race is significant is because Pete Sessions ran unopposed during the last election cycle. So Livingston says she was skeptical when she first heard that Democrats were going to try and go after Sessions’ seat during this cycle, but she says the party has poured millions of dollars into the effort.
“This is just an extraordinary race that I never imagined would come,” Livingston says. “They have spent millions on this race – they were serious about it.”
But there have been signs that this district is changing politically. Hillary Clinton narrowly won it in the 2016 presidential race, and Livingston says that was the starting point of this shift.
“That was the sign that Democrats were gonna go for this seat,” Livingston says.
She says current polling indicates that the race between Allred and Sessions is close, and that indicates that the district part of a broader shift nationwide.
“We are seeing a realignment all over the country of districts,” Livingston says.
She says that can be seen not only in the 32nd District with Allred and Sessions, but also in the normally hotly-contested 23rd District where this year, incumbent Congressman Will Hurd’s seat seems secure.
“We are just seeing very strange shifts in things happening on the ground that have been highly unpredictable,” Livingston says.
Written by Caroline Covington.