Texas Republican Knows He’s in Trouble Heading Into November

This might be a good day to check in on a congressional race I’ve been following pretty closely: the one between Republican Pete Sessions (the incumbent) and Democrat Colin Allred in Texas’s 32nd district. To get more information on the two candidates and the demographics of the district, you can review what I wrote about this race previously. But suffice it to say that Sessions, who served as the NRCC chair in 2010 and 2012, has been referred to as “the most vulnerable incumbent in the Lone Star state.”

At this point, both Real Clear Politics and the Cook Political Report list this race as a toss-up—which is extraordinary given that in 2016 the Democrats didn’t even bother to field an opponent against Sessions. To date there have been two polls conducted in this district: one by Public Policy Polling shows Allred leading by 5 points and another from Siena College has Sessions leading by 2.

A couple of days ago, Sessions released his first television ad.

It’s interesting that Sessions portrays himself as the victim of negative television attacks because of his work for the NRCC that removed Nancy Pelosi as speaker. Victimhood seems to be a big selling point among Republicans these days. But here’s the only ad released by Allred’s campaign since he won the Democratic primary:

Today Sessions confirmed that he knows he’s in trouble.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) on Tuesday introduced a resolution intended to protect people with pre-existing conditions, illustrating the lengths vulnerable Republicans are going to try to show they favor those protections.

The resolution from Sessions, who is facing a close reelection race against Democrat Colin Allred, is nonbinding, but expresses the opinion of the House that pre-existing conditions should be protected.

In a statement, Sessions said that “Obamacare has failed the American people,” but he added that he does want to preserve pre-existing condition protections.

Keep in mind that Sessions voted to repeal Obamacare with no replacement, which would have eliminated protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He also voted for the House’s replacement bill, which would have allowed states to get waivers to allow insurers to spike premiums for people with pre-existing conditions. The resolution he offered today doesn’t provide any details for how people with pre-existing conditions would be protected, absent Obamacare. In other words, it is not only non-binding, it is meaningless and hypocritical.

Beyond all of that, the assumption that this resolution would help Sessions demonstrates that he’s feeling the pressure to campaign on Democratic turf. As we’ve seen in poll after poll, voters are placing a high priority on the issue of health care, primarily a desire to protect the gains achieved via Obamacare. Republicans don’t have an alternative, so the best play Sessions can come up with is to make a meaningless statement in support of the most popular provision in Obamacare.

As an alternative, here’s Allred’s position on healthcare:

* Protect and expand our healthcare markets
* Lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies
* Create an option to buy into Medicare
* Protect and expand Medicaid

It is abundantly clear that Pete Sessions knows he’s in trouble. Whether or not Allred can actually beat him remains to be seen. But if he does it will be a sure sign that the 2018 midterms will be known as the day a monster blue wave rolled across the country.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.