Michael Wood, Manager, Education & Workforce
In 2018, the election for Texas’ 32nd Congressional District made waves as Democratic challenger Colin Allred scored an upset victory over Republican Pete Sessions, an 11-term incumbent.
Two years later, the 2020 General Election will pit first-term Congressman Colin Allred, who serves on the Transportation & Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs, and Veteran Affairs Committees, against Republican challenger Genevieve Collins, a seventh-generation Texan who leads corporate strategy for Istation, a Dallas-based education technology firm.
The Dallas Regional Chamber and WFAA, alongside the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and the Richardson Chamber of Commerce, hosted a virtual debate between the candidates as they vie to win over voters in the North Dallas district. The debate, moderated by WFAA Senior Reporter Jason Whitely, covered issues including COVID-19 relief, health care, trade policy, police reform, and public education.
On COVID-19 relief, Congressman Allred touted the CARES Act, which provided $4 trillion in coronavirus-related aid, including the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”), and the HEROES Act, a $4.6 trillion package that passed the House in May but ultimately stalled in the Senate. A $2.2 trillion compromise deal also failed to gain traction in the upper chamber.
While Allred placed the blame for Congress’ failure to align on a second relief package on the Republican-controlled Senate, Collins suggested it was a casualty of partisan politics.
“We have far too many people in Congress playing party line politics, only trying to pass their agendas and not really serve our community,” she said. “Doing huge, trillion-dollar packages instead of targeted relief is the wrong way to manage a crisis.”
Still, both candidates agreed on the pressing need for federal aid to help those who have lost jobs or small businesses due to the pandemic. Allred noted Congress’ efforts to set-aside PPP funding for minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses, and stressed the HEROES Act targeted assistance for hard-hit industries. Collins said she would push for federal investment in low-income, federally-designated “Opportunity Zones” in addition to grant programs for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Amid the pandemic, Texas’ large number of uninsured residents – the highest in the country for both children and adults – has come under scrutiny. Allred noted that the country has made critical progress since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), which established protections for pre-existing conditions and eliminated lifetime caps on coverage. The congressman also expressed his support for Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s plan to introduce a public health care option to expand coverage options for the uninsured.
Breaking party lines, Collins levied criticism against elected Republicans for failing to propose an adequate replacement to the ACA. Still, Collins believes the ACA limited competition in the health care marketplace, leading to higher costs and fewer options for Texans. Reintroducing that competition, she said, is the key to improving access to affordable and quality health care.
Both candidates agreed that more must be done to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Collins noted the need for price transparency, while Allred argued for greater accountability for drug makers without adequate competition in the market.
Another central issue for Texans this election cycle is international trade. Texas is the largest trade state in the country, with significant markets in Mexico, Canada, and China.
Allred noted the successful passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”) – an agreement the congressman argues is “a model” due to its enforceable labor standards and forward-looking provisions. Allred credits the Texas Congressional Delegation’s intervention, including his own efforts, with its passage in the House. While the USMCA was championed by President Donald Trump, Allred’s alignment with the current administration on trade ends there.
“What I do certainly disagree with is this administration’s use and chaotic approach to trade wars that I think has dramatically impacted us here, from Texas Instruments to Fossil watches,” said Allred. “That uncertainty has really hurt us.”
Likewise, Collins has expressed her support for the USMCA but believes other countries, such as China, are taking advantage of the United States. Collins said she would bring her experience as a businesswoman to the table to negotiate fairer trade agreements.
Over the summer, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis ignited protests and calls for police reform across the country. Throughout her campaign, Collins has been critical of calls to defund the police.
“I fundamentally believe we can knit the fabric of our communities back together without defunding the police,” said Collins.
Instead, she called for a federal registry of “bad cops,” the continued use of dashboard and body cameras to promote transparency, and concerted efforts to ensure equal treatment for all under the law.
Allred cited his involvement in legislation introduced by the Congressional Black Caucus. That bill would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, eliminate qualified immunity, provide anti-discrimination training, and create a federal registry as called for by Collins, among other provisions. Still, Allred believes more work is needed beyond law-making.
“Passing laws is not going to be enough,” he said. “We have to address some of the underlying social issues.”
COVID-19 has dramatically impacted public schooling throughout Texas, forcing many students to engage in fully virtual learning. This transition has revealed that too many students across the state – and particularly in Dallas – have inadequate access to the internet. Both candidates signaled their support for expanding broadband access through federal intervention.
Allred suggested the federal government rely on proven tactics, such as incentivizing and subsidizing internet providers to bring their services to high-need areas in both the urban and rural parts of Texas. Collins, leaning on her deep experience in education, said she has already drafted legislation that is ready to implement and address the state’s connectivity gap.
As for the federal government’s broader role in public education, Collins said Congress needs to “get out of the way” and pass down funding to allow for stronger local and state control of public schools. Allred believes it is the federal government’s obligation to shore up local and state budgets that are facing historic deficits to avoid cuts to public education.
Both Allred and Collins said they support the 2020 Dallas ISD Bond, a $3.7 billion package up for voter approval on the general election ballot.
In her closing remarks, Collins focused on her roots in the North Texas community and breadth of experience as a businesswoman.
“I was born and raised here, I went to school here, and I built a business here,” said Collins. “I believe as a businesswoman, my experience creating jobs, balancing a budget, forecasting growth is exactly what we need to get our economy back on track.”
Allred centered on the COVID-19 pandemic and the path forward for families and communities.
“I know the struggles that so many families are facing,” said the congressman. “[I know] your top concern is this pandemic and where we go from here.”