Collin County At The Crossroads

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As President Trump attempts to attract last-minute support in his re-election bid, he is making a clear pitch to suburban voters with increasingly erratic, nonsensical, and racist rhetoric. But is that really what suburban voters want to hear? Collin County, just north of Dallas, is a bellwether for the 2020 election. How Democrats perform in this largely suburban county will no doubt predict whether or not they win Texas for Biden and flip the state house.

Trump has painted a dark picture of the suburbs, claiming that if Joe Biden wins they will be “overwhelmed by violence and crime.” He has repeatedly talked about crime in states and cities run by Democratic governors or mayors. He has offered dire warnings to “suburban housewives,” including a claim that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker would be in charge of housing in the suburbs.

For Democratic candidates running in Collin County, Booker has not been mentioned by potential voters. (Though he did participate in a Powered by People phone bank targeting suburban Texan voters.) Instead, the questions focus a lot on healthcare, COVID-19, and rebuilding a shattered economy.

For decades, Collin County was reliably red. In 2016, Donald Trump captured 56 percent of the vote, compared to 39 percent for Hillary Clinton. The county voted more Republican than the state as a whole, which Donald Trump won by nine points.

Then came 2018, when Beto O’Rourke led a Democratic wave through much of suburban Texas. He did not win Collin County, losing to Cruz 46 percent to 52 percent. But, the cracks were forming in this former Republican stronghold. Now, a bevy of Democratic candidates can potentially break through.  

Kevin Numerick is a longtime Democratic campaign veteran in Collin County. He is currently working with Lorenzo Sanchez, who is challenging state Rep. Jeff Leach in HD67. The district encompasses a large swath of Collin County, including parts of Richardson, Plano, Allen, and Dallas. Numerick senses the enthusiasm for Sanchez, who faced a contested run-off that was delayed due to COVID-19. Now the campaign is off to the (virtual and socially distanced) races.

“People seem to have extra high interest in the elections this year,” said Numerick in an interview with the Texas Signal. Sanchez’s campaign has attracted a flurry of volunteers, and the fundraising has been steady.

Leach is a stalwart Texas Republican, though he notably left the Freedom Caucus after he won re-election in 2018. He is the author of several anti-choice bills and is a proud supporter of defunding Planned Parenthood.

Sanchez is progressive. He does not take money from corporate PACs and he has earned endorsements from Our Revolution, the Sunrise Movement, End Citizens United, and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. He is also a spotlight race candidate for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

Sanchez leans in hard to his Collin County roots as a first-generation American, a product of public schools, and a small business owner. He would be the first Latino ever elected from Collin County, as well as the only openly LGBTQ+ man in the state legislature.

Healthcare is a priority for Sanchez. His mother had breast cancer. Their family saw firsthand how challenging a cancer diagnosis can be without health insurance. It’s why he supports Medicaid expansion. Texas leads the country in the number of uninsured and, since the COVID-19 pandemic, another 650,000 Texans have lost their health insurance.   

Sanchez is part of a larger coalition of Democrats poised to flip seats in Collin County. That coalition also includes Sharon Hirsch and Angie Bado.

Collin County is also home to Lulu Seikaly, who is making a spirited congressional run against incumbent Rep. Van Taylor. Seikaly recently received a coveted endorsement from EMILY’s List, and the district was put on the DCCC target list. The Cook Political Report has moved the district leftward, and it is now “lean Republican.” It also happens to be the most college-educated district that still votes Republican.

For Numerick, House District 67 is almost a “perfect storm” with both the political climate shifting and the rapid diverse growth in the county colliding. Since 2010, Collin County has added more than a quarter of a million new residents according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Asian American and Hispanic populations have been steadily increasing in Collin County. Pizza Hut, Frito-Lay, and Toyota Motor North America all have headquarters in the county, which has brought a number of new Texans to the region.

Numerous polls have shown that Texas is truly the largest battleground state. If Biden beats Trump or a statewide race like railroad commissioner flips, it will happen on the strength of Democratic turnout in suburbs like Collin County.

The idea that Collin County would ever flip was unthinkable even three years ago. But in the March primary, Democrats actually outvoted Republicans in Collin County by more than 15,000 votes. Now, with less than eight weeks to go, candidates like Sanchez are sprinting towards Election Day, with the potential to change the trajectory of Texas, and even the country.

Trump and Republicans in Texas are continuing to amplify the dangers of defunding the police and threats to suburbia. Still, Sanchez is sticking with the issues he’s hearing from voters in the district while on the virtual campaign trail. The one certainty is that Collin County remains a true bellwether for Texas.

Photo:  Larry D. Moore/ Wikimedia Commons

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