In 2018, a little-known former NFL player named Colin Allred beat longtime incumbent Pete Sessions to flip Dallas County’s Congressional District 32 from red to blue.
Now, before Allred cements his incumbency in an area where demographics increasingly favor Democrats, Dallas businesswoman Genevieve Collins and retired Navy Seal Floyd McLendon Jr. are leading a primary field of Republicans seeking to retake the seat for the GOP.
Like in 2018, District 32 will be one of the most watched races in the country. Early voting for the GOP primary begins Tuesday. Allred is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
“If there’s anything that is important to Republicans, it’s the notion of retaking the House and removing Nancy Pelosi as speaker,” said conservative radio talk show host Mark Davis.
Davis said Republicans are still smarting over Sessions’ loss, and that Allred will be difficult to beat.
“If Colin Allred can be sent back to private life, that would be an amazing, remarkable achievement,” he said. “It may be a purple district. The question is can a Republican win it all?”
The battle for Rep. Colin Allred’s Dallas-based congressional district is among the races already seeing millions of dollars in fundraising activity.
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Collins’ political pedigree
Collins, 33, appears to be the frontrunner in the March 3 primary. She’s raised the most money in the contest and is backed by most of the area’s Republican establishment.
She is part of a prominent political family. Her grandmother, Calvert Collins, was the first woman elected to the Dallas City Council. Her great-uncle, James M. Collins, served eight terms in Congress. And her father, Richard Collins, is a well-known GOP donor.
She is the head of corporate strategy at Istation, an education technology company that lists her father as its chairman and CEO.
“It makes me find and bring my own voice,” she said of her politically active family. “You pay honor to the past. But really, double down and be present in your own voice.”
Like Allred, Collins is an athlete. She founded her high school rowing team and was a standout at the University of Tennessee. She has a graduate degree from Southern Methodist University.
Richard Collins, left, Genevieve Collins, and Dak Prescott talk during the Tackle Tomorrow Today charity golf tournament opening dinner at Top Golf in The Colony on Aug. 27, 2018. (Jason Janik/Special Contributor)
Richard Collins, left, Genevieve Collins, and Dak Prescott talk during the Tackle Tomorrow Today charity golf tournament opening dinner at Top Golf in The Colony on Aug. 27, 2018. (Jason Janik/Special Contributor)(Jason Janik / Special Contributor)
Collins said it is important to make sure that the Texas economy continues to prosper, and that North Texas’ economic engine is maintained.
“This community as well as the Texas economy is thriving and needs leadership that knows how to forecast growth and create jobs,” she said. “It also needs a woman to be able to talk to suburban women about why I care about their children’s education, what I’ve actually done, the impact I’ve created in those communities. I’m the only candidate that can bring that level of authenticity, transparency and trustworthiness.”
Collins’ endorsements include U.S. Reps. Lance Gooden of Terrell and John Ratcliffe of Health.
She’s raised nearly $1 million for her campaign, which includes a $100,000 loan that she didn’t mention to reporters when she sent out a news release touting her fourth-quarter fundraising numbers.
Collins said Allred’s 2018 victory could be reversed.
“This district is completely winnable and I’m a candidate to do it,” Collins said. “Gov. [Greg] Abbott won this district by six points, and analyzing the precincts … it’s very obvious that there were a lot of voters that stayed home.”
McLendon’s political ties
McLendon has raised over $400,000 for his campaign. His campaign aides say they expected Collins to have more campaign cash but are confident he can convince voters that he is the right choice for the district.
McLendon, 46, is a retired Navy Seal who says he taught himself to swim before entering the grueling Navy Seal program. He’s a public speaker and has been an assistant to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
McLendon said spending time in Washington as a legislative fellow reinforced his desire to become a servant leader.
“When I was on Capitol Hill and I saw the caliber of leaders that we have up there I was very disappointed,” McLendon told The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board. “I felt like that I had more of the leadership qualities that was required in order to lead our people, and in addition to that, there’s a very low percentage of veterans in Congress now, about 21%.”
Former Navy SEAL Floyd McLendon Jr.
Former Navy SEAL Floyd McLendon Jr.(U.S. Navy)
That number was about 70% 50 years ago, McLendon said.
He said Congress should be working on securing the country, curbing human trafficking and keeping drug cartels from operating in the country.
“Right now, in Dallas, we have businesses that don’t want to start new businesses or don’t want to come into the communities because they’re unsafe,” he said. “It has a lot to do with our law enforcement that is undermanned and under-resourced. And even though this is a local and state issue, it is not being fixed. So, how do I press upon that from the federal level?”
The Trump effect
In 2016 Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in District 32, signaling that many suburban voters are turned off by the president. Allred was boosted in part by anti-Trump sentiment, and his opponent, Sessions, was backed by the president.
Still, Collins and McLendon have embraced Trump, while blasting Allred for supporting the president’s impeachment. Both are raising money off of Allred’s vote to impeach Trump.
McLendon has said Trump will boost his campaign. “The president of the United States will have a positive impact on my race,” he said. “He kept his promises.”
Collins said that Trump has a record of accomplishment, including maintaining a strong economy, that will help in November. But she has acknowledged to The News that Trump has problems with some of the district’s voters. She said the reelection campaign of Sen. John Cornyn would help her race, if she advances to the general election.
“In this district Trump create some instability,” Collins said. “Cornyn, with his name above mine, will create some stability in this race.”
Newcomers to the district
Residency could be an issue in the primary and general election.
McLendon moved from Austin to Dallas in June, so he’s lived in the district for less than a year.
When asked if his recent move would be a problem against Allred, McLendon said: “Colin Allred’s not going to mess with me.”
Collins has lived in Dallas all of her life, minus her years at the University of Tennessee. But she’s only lived inside the district since November.
“I think we’ll be a parity,” Collins said. “I hope he talks about being a Dallas native, as I can.”
The contest includes three other Republicans.
Retired Garland firefighter-paramedic Jeff Tokar of Richardson, 60, has lived in the district since before it was drawn.
“I probably covered his games on television when I did play-by-play,” he said.
Tokar, 60, said the kings and rulers of government are “water in God’s hands and he controls all.”
“The reason I want to run is that I want to serve,” Tokar said. “I am literally of the people and I want to represent the people in Washington, D.C., as a servant.”
Jon Hollis moved to Uptown in November, after raising $80,000 in California to run against Rep. Adam Schiff, a leading Democrat in that state.
Jon Hollis raised $80,000 running in California against conservative impeachment villain Rep. Adam Schiff. In November, Hollis refiled with the Federal Election Commission to switch races and challenge Rep. Colin Allred in Dallas.
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Hollis, 30, said he has worked for television and film studios and that he moved to Dallas after being fired from his job for supporting Trump. “That’s why I came to Texas,” he said. “This is a place that has values I believe in.”
Mark Sackett is also a candidate in the GOP primary contest.