Colin Allred Triumphs in Super Tuesday Dallas Election Results

Editor's Note, 03/06/2024, 5:45 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect the latest election results.

In a post-2016 world, every election night is at the least an interesting one. That goes double for this year’s primaries in Texas. Although the presidential nominations aren't exactly hotly contested, Super Tuesday has had a big circle around it for many since last September, when Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton won his Senate impeachment trial, if not last May, when the state House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him.

Since being reinstated to his office, Paxton has followed through on his promised batch of revenge endorsements of challengers taking on incumbent House members who voted to impeach him. Collin County, Paxton’s home, had several races including GOP incumbents Paxton wanted out. For his part of the GOP civil war, Gov. Greg Abbott has taken aim at those incumbents who opposed his efforts to push a school voucher program through in 2023.

Well before polls closed locally at 7 p.m. CNN listed the Texas Senate race as one of the top few their analysts were closely monitoring last night. The notion of Democratic U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL player, squaring off against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, who has proven to be relatively bulletproof, has political implications well beyond the Red River.

Technical issues in Irving and logistical difficulties in Denton County were reported by NBC 5 during its 6 p.m. broadcast. A few minutes prior to polls closing, WFAA reported that lengthy lines of people were still waiting to cast their votes in Collin County. Since “election integrity” has improbably become almost as hot of an issue as immigration and abortion, such inconveniences have risen to the top of the newscast.

Here’s how Super Tuesday unfolded in North Texas.

Who will face Ted Cruz?

Allred, a dallas Democrat, duked it out Tuesday night with state Sen. Roland Gutierrez for a chance to unseat Cruz. With 50% of the votes counted around 9 p.m. Tuesday, Allred was projected as the winner with his total of the votes hovering around 60%. It was an anti-climactic result to a race many predicted would go to a runoff because of the nine of candidates on the ballot.

Mark Hand, assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas at arlington, said he was surprised by Allred’s showing even though he had out-raised Gutierrez by a wide margin in campaign donations.

“I thought that he would lead. I didn’t know that he would win so commandingly,” he told the Observer Tuesday night. However, the most recent poll Hand had seen showed Cruz up some 12 points over Allred and Gutierrez. “So, he’s [Allred] got an uphill battle,” Hand added.

Another poll Hand saw showed Cruz at 45% with Allred in the low-30s. “For someone with the name ID that Ted Cruz has – everyone knows who Ted Cruz is, everyone has an opinion about Ted Cruz – that 45% could turn out to be a ceiling for him,” Hand said. This should give Democrats some confidence.

Wendy Davis, the former state Senator and gubernatorial candidate, was at Allred’s watch party at Rodeo Goat in Dallas. Speaking to the Observer, she explained why Allred is a good matchup against Cruz in November.

“I think Colin is obviously the type of person not afraid of a challenge,” Davis said before adding that Allred managed to defeat Pete Sessions in 2018, a longtime Republican who lost to Allred after District 32 was redrawn in favor of Democrats. “He’s demonstrated deeply held Democratic values while working across the aisle. … There are a lot of Republican voters looking for an alternative.”

“There’s too many ‘me guys’ in D.C.” Allred said during his victory speech, taking aim at his Republican opponent. “But none as big as Ted Cruz. In our democracy, ‘we’ has always been more powerful than ‘me’. We the people. We hold these truths to be self-evident. We shall overcome. Yes, we can. And we don’t have to be embarrassed by our Senator. We can get a new one.”

Dallas Races of Note

The race for the Democratic nomination for Dallas County sheriff was an eye-catching one thanks to former office holder and one-time Texas gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez throwing her hat in the ring. Votes for Valdez started the night slow and stayed slower than those for incumbent Marian Brown, but the race appeared headed for a runoff.

Incumbent Sen. Nathan Johnson faced off with state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado for the Texas Senate District 16 seat, declaring victory around 8:30 p.m. “I’m eager to get back to work,” Johnson told WFAA. He said if the results send any message, it’s that Texans want things to get done. Johnson, a Democrat, will not face a Republican opponent in November.

“I’ve learned a great deal over the past five years and built key relationships with advocates, subject matter experts, agencies and, of course, with legislators,” Johnson told the Observer recently. “As a result, I am more effective now than I was when first elected. I aim to use that experience to continue effectively fighting right-wing destructiveness, winning policy advances and changes for SD 16 residents and building strength and trust in the Democratic Party.”

The race for U.S. House District 32, Allred's district, was packed with 14 candidates, including 10 Democrats. The Democrats included Dallas trauma surgeon Dr. Brian Williams, state Rep. Julie Johnson, Callie Butcher, Raja Chaudhry, Alex Cornwallis, Kevin Felder, Zachariah Manning, Jan McDowell, Justin Moore and Christopher Panayiotou.

By 10 p.m. Tuesday, over half of the votes were going to Johnson, while Williams trailed behind at about 21%. To avoid a runoff in such a crowded field, similar to how Allred avoided one in his race, was perhaps both unexpected and impressive.

Her supporters argued she was more than ready for the job. “We need effective members of Congress,” Johnson told the Observer last month. “I'm the only one in this field that has actually won a competitive general election, that knows what it's like to beat Republicans significantly, and that has any legislative experience at all.”

The Speaker vs. The AG

With 99% of the votes counted, Paxton-backed David Covey and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan appeared headed toward a runoff. This result was surprising to Hand. Phelan, who led the charge to impeach Paxton, has been as big of an enemy to Paxton as anyone else in Austin.

“It looks like if the numbers hold that he [Phelan] might lose his seat and if he does, that’s one of the three most powerful state officials and, I think, the first ever speaker of the House to lose a re-election race,” Hand said. “It’ll change the relationship that’s historically existed between the House and the Senate for the last few years.”

He said it also looks like Paxton is going three-for-three on ousting judges from the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals who ruled in a way that he didn’t like a few years ago. According to The Texas Tribune, judges Sharon Keller, Barbara Hervey and Michelle Slaughter all voted against allowing Paxton to have unilateral ability to prosecute voter fraud. “It looks like all three of them are going to lose their seats,” Hand said.

Even though many of the challengers the AG endorsed were losing or headed for runoffs late into the evening, Hand thinks the judicial wins will mean a lot to Paxton.

“In terms of the checks and balances in the state, I think that’s surprising and probably also a bit worrying in terms of the independence of the three branches,” he said. “I think Paxton goes to bed tonight with a smile on his face.”

What Happened in Collin County

In Collin County, dozens of voters at the Allen Municipal Court building waited outside for an hour and a half, shuffling past posters and placards promoting warring endorsements by Gov. Abbott and Attorney Gen. Paxton. As the sun went down and the clock inched closer to closing time, the line only continued to grow.

According to elections administrators, more than 54,000 people voted in Collin County on Election Day, on top of 8,000 early voters — roughly 19% of registered voters. Wade Emmert, the former Dallas County GOP chair, wasn’t surprised by the solid turnout or the long lines.

“Collin County is the epicenter of the proxy war between Governor Abbott and Ken Paxton and the impeachment versus school vouchers vote,” Emmert said during WFAA’s live election broadcast.

Just a few days earlier, at the Allen City Hall building that sits a short walk from the municipal court, two candidates on either side of that “proxy war” shared a tense moment. Jeff Leach, the incumbent in House District 67, is a former Paxton protege who voted to impeach the attorney general. In the primary, he was challenged by the Paxton-endorsed Daren Meis, a former Allen City Council member.

“I’m asking you to step away from me,” Leach told Meis while the two were greeting voters on the last day of early voting. “Your face is red, your eyes are bloodshot, and you said ‘Fuck you’ to me.”

Meis, who appeared to be asking Leach to share details about his donors, laughed at Leach and called him “dishonest.”

Election night was less dramatic. Roughly 30 minutes after the polls closed, with dozens of voters still in line and facing long waits, reports indicated that Leach had earned two-thirds of the early vote.

Emmert said he thought the lawmaker’s “impassioned” speech before the impeachment vote would have rallied more support for Meis.

“I’m not surprised to see Jeff winning, but I thought Meis would’ve done a little better than that,” Emmert said.

Elsewhere in Collin County, incumbents Matt Shaheen and Candy Noble — who, like Leach, voted in favor of impeachment — appeared to win their races with 99% of the votes counted. Both received Abbott’s endorsement.

Of the Collin County contests that pitted the governor’s candidates of choice versus Paxton’s picks, only one appeared to be trending in the attorney general’s direction. Keresa Richardson led fellow challenger Chuck Branch and the incumbent Frederick Frazier in the race for House District 61, which covers parts of Frisco, Anna and Celina. The race was unique in that Paxton endorsed both of Frazier’s challengers. With 99% of the vote counted before midnight, Richardson led Frazier with 39% of the vote to Frazier's 33%, meaning the pair will face off in a runoff May 28.

Katrina Pierson, a spokesperson for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was in one of the closest races of the night: House District 33, which includes Rockwall County. Incumbent Justin Holland has been under fire by members of his own party ever since he voted to advance a House bill that, if passed, would have raised the legal age for purchasing certain semiautomatic weapons. His party’s criticism only intensified after Holland voted to impeach Paxton.

In a late 2023 statement shared on social media, the Rockwall County GOP said Holland has “grown increasingly unresponsive to voters and the Republican Party.”

"In doing so,” it continued, “he has insulted and belittled local Republican voters and your Rockwall County Republican Party.”

With 99% of the vote counted, The Associated Press reported that Pierson and Holland would also square off in a runoff in May.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, was surprised by Collin County’s overall allegiance to incumbents and their effective rebuff of Paxton.

“They say revenge is best served cold,” Rottinghaus told the Observer, “and Ken Paxton's revenge tour is ice cold in North Texas.”

That allegiance might not have extended into Collin County and into neighboring House District 65 in Denton County where Republican incumbent Kronda Thimesch had a slight lead over Mitch Little after the early votes were counted. But Little, one of Paxton’s defense attorneys during the AG’s impeachment trial. took his own slight lead overnight. At 5:45 a.m. on Wednesday, with 99% of the vote counted, Little led by less than 300 votes, and The AP had not called the race. To add to that, the night had some scattered wins for for the attorney general. His candidates of choice fared far better in rural areas like the deeply conservative district covering Hunt, Hopkins, and Van Zandt counties.

Overall, though, the night was a much bigger success story for Greg Abbott. Lawmakers like Glenn Rogers, Hugh Shine, Steve Allison and Travis Clardy — all opposed to Abbott’s school voucher push — lost their seats to challengers backed by the governor.


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