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GOP Opposition To Colin Allred Starts To Take Shape

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson
The Texas Tribune
Democrat Collin Allred takes the stage after defeating Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions in the 2018 midterms, in Dallas on Nov. 6, 2018.

The Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, is finally starting to take shape.

One candidate, former Navy SEAL Floyd McLendon, entered the race Monday. And more announcements are expected before the end of the summer as the opposition begins to crystallize for what will be an uphill battle. Allred easily flipped the 32nd District last year as he unseated U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas.

The national GOP is targeting the district in 2020, though compared to Texas' seven other battleground congressional races, the challenger lineup has been slow to develop. Republicans have waited to see if Sessions attempts a comeback and have been sizing up the political landscape of a presidential-election year in bluer and bluer Dallas County.

"I think it will be a tough race but is winnable by Republicans," said Wade Emmert, former chairman of the county GOP. "It’s always true that turnout drives the result, but that is probably more true with President Trump on the ballot. To win, a Republican candidate will have to embrace the Republican base, including Trump, but differentiate himself or herself enough to speak to the specific issues of TX-32."

In an interview, McLendon argued that TX-32 is "still a Republican district" — that 2018 was a "fluke" — and pitched his "outside perspective on how to solve our nation's problems" given his extensive military background.

"I look at this as a natural progression of serving — 25 years in the military, 15 years as a Navy SEAL," said McLendon, who now works as motivational author and speaker. "Throughout that time, I've learned the importance of trusted leadership, and quite frankly I think our political system is broken. Career politicians are not holding themselves accountable, speaking one way to their district and then go to Washington and vote another way."

McLendon is the first of multiple Republicans who could launch campaigns to take on Allred in the coming weeks. Genevieve Collins, an executive at an education technology company in Dallas, announced her campaign on Tuesday. Former state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas is also taking a close look at the primary and is planning to make a decision late next month.

Another potential candidate is Beth Van Duyne, the former Irving mayor who now holds a regional job for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"I'm grateful to continue hearing from people who are encouraging me to be a candidate but I have nothing new to say at this point," Van Duyne said Friday.

Already running for the 32nd District is Tania Burgess, an ardent Trump supporter. She has raised less than $10,000 since entering the primary in March but quickly got the attention of Allred's campaign, who has alluded to her as an "extreme, far-right" challenger in fundraising emails.

Allred has made clear he is ready for whomever Republicans nominate, raising close to $600,000 in the second quarter as he amassed a reelection war chest approaching $1 million. And national Democrats, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, stand ready to defend him after their hard-fought victory last cycle.

"As Dallas County Republicans panic over the possibility of Pete Sessions attempting a doomed political 'comeback,' Colin Allred is getting results for North Texas by working across the aisle and listening to Texas families about the issues that matter to them," DCCC spokesman Avery Jaffe said in a statement.

Sessions looms large, even as some Republicans express unease with another run by the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who lost by 6.5 percentage points last cycle after initially brushing off the extent of the threat he faced. He has not said much publicly about the 2020 primary, though his most recent comments — published in June by the National Journal — sounded like he was running but not ready to announce yet.

That was back when it looked like he could face a primary battle against Allen West, the former Florida congressman who now lives in North Texas. But earlier this month, West announced he was instead exploring a run for Texas GOP chairman, taking himself out of the TX-32 speculation game for the time being — and depriving Democrats of a bombastic firebrand against which they were eager to run.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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