News for North Texas

Collin County primary candidates guide: What’s at stake?

Liz Michel with the Collin County Democratic Party welcomes candidates a McKinney Area Democrats happy hour. Democrats in the region hope division in the Republican Party over Paxton's impeachment will be to their benefit during the general election.
Yfat Yossifor

Early voting for the primaries is underway in Collin County ahead of election day on March 5. Republicans and Democrats both have several races on the ballot.

Collin County is known for being a Republican stronghold — it's Attorney General Ken Paxton's home base. But the GOP is facing inner turmoil over Paxton's impeachment. Democrats, who've had some success in the region at the local level, say the dissonance in the Republican Party will be their gain.

Congressional District 3

The Republican candidates

U.S. Representative Keith Self is running for reelection. Self was the Collin County judge for 12 years.
The Associated Press

Incumbent Congressman Keith Self has to get past four opponents in his Republican primary if he’s going to be on the ballot in November. He was first elected to Congressional District 3 in 2022.

Self won the Republican primary runoff after the incumbent, Van Taylor, ended his reelection campaign. The Texas Tribune reported that happened after the conservative media outlet Breitbart published a story alleging that he had an affair with a woman he paid to keep quiet.

Self has a lot of support in Collin County. He was elected with almost 60% of the vote in the 2022 general election. He was also the county judge for 12 years.

The congressman is known for being conservative — he was one of the Republicans who held up the election of former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. He’s also part of a group that voted no on a recent continuing resolution to fund the federal government. He explained that decision at a candidate forum at the Collin College Plano campus.

“We will not vote to fund anything until we actually have behavior change on the border,” Self said.

The Congressman said he supports Governor Greg Abbott’s efforts to secure the Texas border.

The Collin County Conservative Republicans hostedthe recent forum. The candidates at the debate vied to claim they had the most solid conservative values by hitting talking points about things like the border and the budget.

Suzanne Harp came in third in the 2022 Republican primary for the Congressional District 3 and is running a second time. She said the nation needs to curb its spending.

“If America isn't real careful, we're going to go the way of the Communist Soviet Union,” Harp said.

Election fraud also came up. That’s a frequent theme at commissioners court meetings in Collin County. Several Republican precinct chairs have shown up to court meetings regularly to repeat false claims that the 2020 election was stolen because of the voting machines.

John Porro, another candidate running against Self, echoed those concerns at the forum. He said the country should go back to in person voting with paper ballots.

“We got those elections right,” Porro said. “They couldn't be hacked. They could not be changed.”

Jeremy D. Ivanovskis, who also ran in the district’s Republican primary in 2022, criticized the Help America Vote Act, a federal law that supporters praised for bringing about sweeping reforms to the nation’s voting process.

“I would repeal the HAVA act, which required states to purchase faulty machines without a paper trail with software made in foreign countries,” Ivanovskis said.

Tre Pennie, a Black police officer, talked about how Trump supported him when he sued Black Lives Matter and then President Barack Obama in 2017 for inciting violence against police.

“I did that by myself, not expecting anybody else to get behind me,” Pennie said. “But you know who did? President Trump did call me.”

Trump has endorsed Self for reelection on the social media site Truth Social.

The Democratic candidate

Sandeep Srivastava chats with residents during a McKinney Area Democrats happy hour in January. Srivastava was the Democratic nominee for Congressional District 3 in 2022.
Yfat Yossifor

Sandeep Srivastava, a Collin County Realtor who immigrated from India to the United States 25 years ago, is the only candidate running for the Congressional District Three seat in the Democratic primary. He was the party’s nominee in 2022.

Collin County is known for being Republican. Attorney General Ken Paxton calls it home. But the area is the third fastest growing county in the nation — and it’s diversifying as it grows. Srivastava said at a Democratic candidate meet and greet in McKinney that Keith Self doesn’t represent the interests of the county’s diverse population.

“Keith Self represents only very few, 10 or 12%,” Srivastava said.

Collin County is about 20% Asian, 16% Hispanic and 12% Black according to U.S. Census data.

State Senate District 8

The Republican candidate

Texas state Sen. Angela Paxton is running for reelection. She's married to embattled Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton.
Eric Gay

State Senator Angela Paxton, who’s married to embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton, is running unopposed in the senate district’s Republican primary. Her husband once held the same seat.

Before she ran for the first time in 2018, Angela Paxton was a math teacher and school counselor for 20 years. The Dallas Morning News reported that Paxton’s husband loaned her $2 million from his campaign to help fund her first race.

The Texas Tribune has reported multiple instances where Angela Paxton has stood by her husband despite his controversies. Those include his alleged extramarital affair, his impeachment and a number of criminal and civil investigations. The Tribune also reported she was driving the car when Paxton ducked a subpoena for an abortion case last year in McKinney.

She introduced legislation during her first term that would’ve legalized her husband’s securities fraud actions. The trial for that case is scheduled for April in a Harris County court despite the Attorney General’s attempts to have the charges thrown out.

Sen. Paxton announced her intention to run for reelection at a Labor Day picnic hosted by the Collin County GOP. She attended the picnic with her husband, who was suspended at the time pending his impeachment trial.

At the picnic, she voiced outrage over the pornography industry, abortion laws and the border. She also signaled her support for her husband.

“I don’t know that there’s really anyone, that I know, that has more experience with having a target on their back,” Angela Paxton. “But more importantly, experience in successfully overcoming having a target on their back.”

AG Paxton was later acquitted of all charges in his impeachment trial.

Sen. Paxton was at her husband’s impeachment trial — but aftera senate vote, she was banned from participating or having any say in the trial’s outcome. There was no indication that she had plans to recuse herself before the senate vote on the impeachment trial’s rules made that decision for her.

The Democratic candidate

Rachel Mello stands up to greet residents during a McKinney Area Democrats happy hour in January. Mello is running as a Democrat in for the Texas Senate District 8 seat.
Yfat Yossifor

Rachel Mello is the only Democrat running for the seat in the Democratic primary. Her website lists endorsements from the Texas AFL-CIO, Texas Progressive Caucus and Texas Democrats with Disabilities.

Mello said at a candidate forum hosted by the Collin County chapter of the League of Women Voters that she has worked as a teacher for 15 years. She said she plans to prioritize education if elected.

“It needs to be funded at an adequate level,” Mello said.

She suggested the state expand Medicaid to help pay for more special education services. She also touted other Democratic talking points, including her support for abortion rights.

“The state of women’s reproductive healthcare currently is absolutely unacceptable,” Mello said.

Texas House District 61

The Republican candidates

Chuck Branch and Keresa Richardson participated in a Texas House District 61 Republican primary debate hosted by the Collin County Patriots in January. The incumbent, Rep. Frederick Frazier, didn't attend the event.

Representative Frederick Frazier is facing two challengers, Keresa Richardson and Chuck Branch.

Frazier, along with the other four Republican statehouse representatives from Collin County, voted to impeach Paxton. At a debate hosted by the Collin County Patriots, Richardson and Branch said the impeachment pointed out issues that compelled them to run.

“That’s what made me aware of the bigger challenges, and that's what got me in the race,” Branch said.

The attorney general and his wife have endorsed Richardson and Branch and several other primary candidates who are challenging statehouse members that voted to impeach Paxton. Branch and Richardson said the fact that they both the endorsement of Ken and Angela Paxton isn’t an issue because choosing the party’s nominee is up to the voters.

Richardson said the impeachment highlighted a need for change at the legislature.

“I definitely believe the Paxton impeachment brought dysfunction and corruption to light,” Richardson said.

Frazier wasn’t at the debate hosted by the Collin County Patriots, but he did come up indirectly. Frazier recently pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges and guilty to a criminal mischief charge for allegedly impersonating a McKinney city code enforcement officer during the Republican primary runoff last election cycle.

Stephen Kallas, the debate moderator, asked an audience question that appeared to reference Frazier’s legal troubles.

“Do you believe somebody…who has been convicted of a crime, not a speeding ticket, should be eligible to run and hold office as a public servant?” Kallas said.

Audience members chuckled at the question.

“We know what this is about,” he said.

Branch and Richardson both said no to the question.

Frazier technically wasn’t convicted of a crime — he accepted a deferred adjudication plea, of which means he will have no convictions if he successfully completes a probationary period. And he paid some fines. He was also dishonorably discharged from the Dallas Police force after he resigned while he was being investigated for the charges. But he is still eligible to run for and hold office.

The Collin County Conservative Republicans also hosted a debate a few weeks after the Collin County Patriots. Frazier was at the debate, along with Branch and Richardson.

Frazier’s charges didn’t come up during the debate. The moderator asked about other issues, including the border and Democratic committee chairs. Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has faced criticism from other Republicans for appointing Democrat committee chairs. When asked if Democrats should be allowed to chair committees, Frazier said that working alongside the opposition is a part of getting things done at the state legislature.

“We have to have bipartisan bills to work, and you have to have a group effort on certain issues to get across the finish line,” he said.

Richardson and Branch both said they wouldn’t support allowing Democrats to chair committees.

The Democratic candidate

Tony Adams, a local businessman, is the only candidate running for Texas House District 61 in the Democratic primary.

Adams also participated in the League of Women Voters candidate forum. He his top legislative priorities are women’s health, mental health and public education. Adams said he opposes school vouchers.

“I believe that education vouchers benefits only the rich and not the low and middle class families,”

Gov. Greg Abbott failed to pass a program that would have used state funding to pay for private school vouchers. Abbott has endorsed several incumbents who have supported his vouchers initiative, including Frazier for House District 61. Both Branch and Richardson list their support for school choice as an issue on their campaign websites.

Texas House District 66

The Republican candidates

Matt Shaheen has represented this statehouse district since 2015. Before that, he was a Collin County commissioner.

Like Branch and Richardson, Shaheen’s challenger, Wayne Richard was inspired to run because of Paxton’s impeachment.

“The House is a mess,” Richard told The Texas Newsroom. “I was not happy with the fact that our current rep, my opponent, voted to impeach knowing the information was probably not legitimate — rumors and innuendos — so I made a decision to run.”

Paxton has endorsed Richard. Abbott has endorsed Shaheen, who supported his failed school vouchers program. A recent study from the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs found that 64% of Republican primary voters said they are more likely to support a candidate backed by Abbott, compared to 40% who said the same about Paxton.

Shaheen told the Texas Newsroom that Paxton’s support for his opponent won’t affect him.

“Ken Paxton is pretty irrelevant when it comes to these campaigns. He’s somebody that’s had a mistress. He’s been accused of taking bribes,” Shaheen told The Texas Newsroom. “So, it’s really not an endorsement that you want, if anything that probably hurts you.

The Democratic candidate

David W. Carstens chats with Simon Cardell during a McKinney Area Democrats happy hour. Carstens is running as a Democrat for Texas House District 66. Cardell is also a Democratic candidate for Congressional District 4.
Yfat Yossifor

David W. Carstens is the sole candidate in the Texas House District 66 Democratic primary. Carstens, who’s from Collin County, is in his final semester of graduate school at Miami University of Ohio. He said he finishes his graduate teaching commitments soon.

Carstens is 25, one of the youngest candidates on the ballot in Collin County. He said his youth is an advantage because voters are concerned about older politicians’ age.

“Having exclusively people in their 40s, 50s, 60s at a mid to high state level inevitably results in presidents who are 80 years old,” Carstens said.

Shaheen is 58. Carstens said he thinks Shaheen is looking to run for higher office, causing him to focus on national issues instead of things that impact his constituents.

“He talks a lot about anything that's being talked about on cable news networks,” Carstens said.

Texas House District 67

The Republican candidates

Representative Jeff Leach has held this seat for six terms. Known for being conservative, he coauthored the bill that would later become the state’s permitless carry law. He also wrote the bill that banned COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

But Leach has faced backlash for his role as an impeachment manager. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in his closing arguments at Paxton’s trial in the state senate.

“There comes a time when one must take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular,” Leach said. “But one must take it because it’s right.”

Leach has been called a RINO — a Republican in Name Only — for his involvement with Paxton’s impeachment.

Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said RINO once referred to Republicans who weren’t conservative enough. But he said the meaning has changed as allegiance to certain Republican politicians — like Paxton or President Donald Trump — has become more important to the party than loyalty to policy or ideology.

“The way that many people use it now is as an accusation of disloyalty,” Wilson said.

Paxton has endorsed Daren Meis, a former Allen city council member who is running against Leach. Meis has shared footage on social media from America, Can we Talk?, a conservative talk show, where he accused Leach of going against the will of the voters who elected Paxton. The Attorney General was elected with about 53% of the vote in Collin County in 2022.

“People aren’t going to sit back and just accept people trying to overthrow the will of the people,” Meis said. “Collin County’s not going to sit back. I’m not sitting back.”

The Democratic candidates

Jefferson Nunn chats with residents at a McKinney Area Democrats happy hour. Nunn is running as a Democrat for Texas House District 67. Makala L. Washington is also running for the seat as a Democrat.
Yfat Yossifor

Texas House District 67 is the only statehouse seat in Collin County with more than one Democrat on the ballot, Jefferson Nunn and Makala L. Washington.

Neither candidate has run for office. Nunn, who has written for Forbes, is the author of a science fiction series called “Burning Mold” — and “A Crypto Currency Carol,” a retelling of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" originally published in Forbes in 2018 that's about cryptocurrency. Washington is the owner of “Personality on the Rocks,” a private bartending service, according to her LinkedIn page.

The only Democratic nominees from Collin County who’ve run for office before are Sandeep Srivastava, who ran against Congressman Keith Self in 2022, and Representative Mihaela Plesa from Texas House District 70. She was the first Democrat elected from Collin County to the statehouse in 30 years when she won in 2022.

Plesa worked as a legislative director at the statehouse before she ran for office. The other Democrats running in Collin County don’t have Plesa’s resume. But Liz Michel, the candidate recruiter for the Collin County Democratic Party, said that’s an asset, not a hindrance.

“They want to represent the people of this county and not political interest groups,” Michel said. “I know because I recruited them. These are everyday people.”

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said there have been instances where a candidate who doesn’t fit the political mold has prevailed.

But Jillson said candidates who lack campaign experience need more help — and getting that advice isn’t cheap.

“Unless you've worked in elections before…you don't know how it's done,” he said. “And so, you got to hire that kind of expertise. And to do that, you need money.”

Jillson said money buys visibility. And the higher the race, the more it costs.

Most of the Republicans in Collin County are outpacing Democrats with their fundraising. Michel said she’s not worried.

“We want them to spend all their money in the primaries so they don’t have any left in November,” she said.

Texas House District 70

The Democratic candidate

Rep. Mihaela Plesa is running for reelection. She spoke at a rally to protest gun violence after a mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets. Plesa's district includes parts of Allen.
Caroline Love

No other Democrats are challenging Plesa for her seat. She was named Freshman of the Year and authored 141 pieces of legislation according to her campaign website. That includeslegislation to reform the state’s school finance system. Plano ISD, which is in Plesa’s district, has run a budget deficit for years.

Texas House District 70 was drawn during 2020 redistricting to favor Democrats. The race was close – Plesa won by less than a thousand votes.

But progressive politicians like Plesa are gaining momentum in the county. She was one of three Democratic candidates who won Collin County in 2022. Democrats in the region also won seats on city councils and school boards last May.

That came up at the Collin County Patriot’s Republican Party Chair debate. Shelby Williams, one of the three candidates for party chair, said Republicans need to get more involved in local elections. He’s a Plano city council member.

“I was the only GOP endorsed candidate who won, and I was not the only incumbent,” Williams said. “It wasn't just being an incumbent. We got completely skunked.”

Collin County is diversifying as it grows. Jillson said that could benefit Democrats — but it may be a while before that leads to success at a higher level.

“It's more in terms of decades than it is in terms of election cycles,” he said.

Plesa said Collin County flipping blue will cause a ripple effect.

“When Collin County goes blue, the rest of Texas will go blue,” she said.

The Republican candidates

Steve Kinard and Joe Collins III are running as Republicans for the House District 70 seat. Both are very conservative – Kinard’s campaign website lists endorsements from Young Conservatives of Texas and Senator Ted Cruz. Collins, who ran for Congress in California in 2020 and 2022 as a Republican according to his campaign website, has taken a Texas First Pledge according to the Take Texas Back Political Action Committee’s website. The pledge includes a promise to vote for legislation that would put Texas secession on the ballot and working toward establishing the state as an independent nation if passed. The Texas GOP rejected an attempt to put secession on the Republican primary ballot.

Jamee Jolly, who ran for the seat as a Republican in 2022, lost by 859 votes. She was endorsed by Abbott and other members of the Republican establishment. Abbott hasn’t endorsed either candidate in the current race. Senator Paxton has endorsed Kinard.

Jolly’s past roles before running for office were 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.

In an interview with KERA during her campaign, Jolly said her history in nonpartisan roles is an advantage.

“People have seen me as Jamee and not as, you know, Jamee, the Republican,” Jolly said.

Texas House District 89

The Republican candidates

Abraham George stepped down as Collin County Republican Party Chair to challenge Representative Candy Noble for her seat.

Paxton has endorsed George. When he was the Collin County GOP chair, George praised Paxton’s acquittal in the senate impeachment trial. He said the trial was a waste of time and resources that distracted GOP members from priorities like the border and economy. He also called to “clean” the Texas House. George said in a previous statement when the impeachment was first announced that the House impeachment lacked due process.

“Real corruption is when you won’t allow fair and due process,” he said.

George suggested in a social media post that Jeff Leach, who was an impeachment manager during Paxton’s trial, should register with the Collin County Democratic Party when he runs for reelection. He said Leach has aligned himself with Democrats too much, putting Republican objectives on the backburner.

George immigrated from legally India as a teen. At the Collin County Conservative Republicans Debate, he suggested that the governor was slow to act on the border security issue.

“Our citizens here in Texas have been asking Governor Abbott and the legislature to declare invasion and stop this issue for a pretty long time,” he said.

He also suggested the state should bus migrants back to Mexico, where many are entering from, instead of to sanctuary cities.

Noble praised the state’s border security efforts, pointing to the $6 billion spent on the issue and the number of people bussed out of Texas. Abbott has endorsed Noble for re-election.

“We are winning this war in the minds of Americans, and they are now calling the Biden administration to step up and do their job,” she said.

The Democratic candidate

Darrel Evans attended a McKinney Area Democrats happy hour in January. He's the only Democrat running in Texas House District 89.
Yfat Yossifor

Darrel Evans, who works in sales, is the sole candidate running as a Democrat for the Texas House District 89 seat. He said the dissonance amongst Republicans benefit the Democrats.

“They’re just busy fighting amongst themselves,” Evans said.

He said while the Republicans are arguing over who did and didn’t support Paxton, Democrats are focusing on policy.

“If you look and if you listen, anything that's coming out of this Democratic Party in Collin County is about issues,” Evans said.

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at

Caroline Love is a Report For AmericaCorps member for KERA News.

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Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.