The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has intervened in a third U.S. House race in Texas, endorsing former Obama administration official and NFL linebacker Colin Allred for a Dallas-area seat held by incumbent Republican Pete Sessions.
In 2016, the party failed to field a candidate in the race.
Allred garnered 38.5 percent of the vote in the first round of the Democratic primary for the 32nd Congressional District, short of the 50 percent he needed to advance directly to the general election. He still has to clear a May 22 runoff against Lillian Salerno, another Obama administration veteran, who earned 18.3 percent in the seven-person field.
A DCCC aide pointed to Allred’s strong performance in the primary and a series of endorsements, including the state and local AFL-CIO, former Dallas Mayor and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro (Allred’s former boss). But choosing sides in the primary before Democratic voters have the final say could irk some party faithful. It’s already angered one: Lillian Salerno.
“I figured they’d let us duke it out, but they couldn’t help themselves,” said Salerno, who was a small business entrepreneur before working for the United Nations and the Agriculture Department. “I don’t see the benefit of this that helps our party. I’m a Democrat; why does this help us?”
It’s unclear what designating Allred as a “Red to Blue” candidate accomplishes in March, before the primary runoff, as opposed to after the runoff in May. The DCCC did not promise any resources or support within the next two months for Allred. The committee has also been plagued by the perception of putting its thumb on the scale in primaries across the country, especially in Texas.
In the Houston-area 7th District, the DCCC dropped opposition research on Democrat Laura Moser before the primary, which didn’t stop her from advancing to the runoff (and might have even helped). In the 23rd District, located in the southern part of the state, the DCCC recently endorsed Gina Ortiz Jones, which has her opponent giddy because of the committee’s poor track record and bad reputation. Perhaps wanting to avoid negative headlines, the DCCC has not yet endorsed Moser’s opponent, corporate lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, in the Texas 7th District race. (In that race, EMILY’s List and the DCCC wound up on the same side.)
All three districts are potential pickups for Democrats in their bid to take back the U.S. House. Hillary Clinton won the 32nd District in 2016, but Democrats didn’t bother to field a candidate against Sessions.