The federal Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted about three dozen districts across the country won by Hillary Clinton but electing a Republican representative, including Dallas Co.-based CD32. U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) has been the only person elected from the district since it was first drawn in 2002, following three terms in what was then CD5.

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions

Sessions has been in the cross hairs of Tea Party activists for the last two cycles, and now national Democrats have placed a target on him as well. Sessions posted double-digit victories over Democratic challengers and one incumbent for his first seven races for CD32. In 2016, no Democrat filed against him.

CD32 is comprised on north central Dallas, Garland, Highland Park, Richardson, Rowlett, Sachse and University Park in Dallas Co. plus nine voting precincts in southeastern Collin Co. The latter portion is roughly just as Republican now as it was in 2012. The larger Dallas Co. portion experienced shifts in straight-party voting and, at least for president, partisan preference that likely signaled an opportunity for national Democrats.

As we saw with CD7, another district being targeted by the DCCC, the shift in straight-party voting, while significant, was not enough to overcome the Republicans’ advantage, and the rest of the Republican ticket outperformed its presidential nominee all the way down the ballot:

  • In the RRC race, Wayne Christian defeated his Democratic rival by more than 32K votes and received 63% of the full-ballot vote head-to-head over the Democrat.
  • In a Supreme Court race, Justice Paul Green defeated his Latina Democratic rival by more than 25K votes, taking 57% of the full-ballot vote head-to-head; and
  • In the Dallas Co. Sheriff race, the Republican candidate carried the Dallas Co. portion of the district by more than 10K votes despite losing overall.

Democrats cut the Republicans’ straight-ticket vote advantage from 33K in 2012 to just over 13K in 2016 through a combination of increased straight-party Democratic voters (+12K) and decreased straight-party Republican voters (-8K).

Donald Trump received 17K fewer votes in CD32 than Mitt Romney in 2012, and Clinton received 27K more than Barack Obama. All down-ballot Republicans received more votes than Trump – at least, the ones running districtwide – and all down-ballot Democrats received fewer votes than Clinton.

National Democratic strategists are betting that Republican congressional incumbents will be dragged down by Trump to the point that their districts become competitive. They point to the national historical trend that the president’s party loses seats in the midterm election, and that trend was very evident in Texas in 2010 when a conservative state reacted to a more liberal president and a significant chunk of his supporters did not return to the polls.

Democratic hopes in CD32 depend on a combination of a backlash against an increasingly unpopular Trump, higher than normal Democratic turnout for a midterm election and a strong candidate to challenge Sessions. “Strong” in this case includes “well-financed.” Sessions raised $2.4M during the 2015-16 election cycle – third in the delegation behind Ways & Means Chair Kevin Brady ($4.6) and battleground district winner Will Hurd ($4.0M) – despite not having a Democratic opponent or a particularly strong primary challenger.