Democrats and Republicans in Collin County vie for open Texas House House District 70 seat
Democrat Mihaela Plesa and Republican Jamee Jolly have both spent many Saturdays walking the tree-lined streets of the suburban Plano district they hope to represent.
But first, wherever they start, caffeine.
Jolly goes for a black iced tea with two stevia. Plesa prefers coffee — she takes her espresso with milk.
Then, they lace up their sneakers. Plesa wears a pair of Brooks Texas flag running shoes.
“I know they look raggedy, but they've knocked over 10,000 doors personally themselves,” Plesa said.
Jolly wears an identical pair. She got them from Texas state representative David Cook.
“He felt like it was the perfect pair of campaign shoes,” she said.
Texas State House District 70 used to be a Republican seat in McKinney. Now, Democrats and Republicans say the district — covering parts of Plano, Allen and Richardson — is theirs for the taking.
For both candidates, putting in face time could make all the difference. Polling data from EMC research had President Joe Biden’s favorables and unfavorables at 50/50 with voters in the district.
Caleb Milne, the Collin County Democratic party vice chair, said the district is politically split because the Republicans in the state legislature were less careful when they redistricted Collin County.
“In other counties, like in Tarrant and Dallas, they really tried to create kind of safety valves where these districts that would just absorb the democratic growth,” Milne said.
He said that didn’t happen in Collin County, which gives Democrats an opening.
Jolly also said winning the district will be tougher than Republicans expected.
“Southern Collin County would have been seen as an easy win for Republicans,” she said. “I think now it's going to take work and I think it's going to take understanding that there is a very diverse group of voters that have different ideas.”
Jolly has been endorsed by Governor Greg Abbott and other members of the Texas Republican establishment. But her past roles have been nonpartisan. She served as the executive director of Plano ISD’s education foundation and also was president of the local chamber of commerce for ten years.
She said her history in nonpartisan roles is an advantage for her campaign.
“People have seen me as Jamee and not as, you know, Jamee, the Republican,” Jolly said.
Democrats see House District 70 as an opportunity to gain a new seat, but they say they’ll have to work for it. So, Plesa is putting in time with voters.
The Democratic candidate is very familiar with Plano — she grew up in the area with her Romanian immigrant parents. She spent the past four years working as the legislative director for Texas state house member Ray Lopez from San Antonio.
Plesa said she’s running on policies that resonate across the aisle — things like property taxes, healthcare access and abortion rights.
“If we can get these Dems and these independents and the moderate Republicans to listen to what our campaign is fighting for, then we can win,” Plesa said.
But there’s an issue on some voters’ minds that Democrats don’t poll as well on as Republicans. AnNPR/Marist poll found in September that 39% of Americans said the Republicans would do a better job handling the economy, compared to 26% who said Democrats would fare better.
Inflation is one of Jolly’s main issues. It’s also one of the reasons the Collin County Republican Party chair, Abraham George said Democrats won’t succeed in the county.
“Christmas is coming,” George said. “Thanksgiving is coming. People are strapped.”
Election day is also coming, and early voting has already begun. And every door knocked, or yard sign put up, could be a tipping point in this narrow district.
Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at email@example.com.
Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.
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