The Dallas Weekly, Staff Report
The Dallas Weekly recently got a chance to have some one-on-one time with North Dallas’ own Congressional freshman phenom, Representative Colin Allred, the first Democrat to represent Texas’ 32nd district since its creation in 2003. In defeating Pete Sessions, who had held that district since then, Allred pulled off an upset that – in normal times – would have automatically catapulted this dynamic civil rights attorney into the national spotlight.
However, there is no question that the 2018 midterms were unlike any previous election cycle this century. On the Democratic side, record numbers of women and the most ethnically diverse coalition ever ran on an equally diverse range of issues. Healthcare has become one of the most prominent indicators of the Democratic Party’s expanded range, as defending the ACA is now considered the moderate position in contrast with more progressive single payer systems like Medicare For All.
Into this slew of contradictions stands Representative Allred, a self-proclaimed moderate who considers his advocacy for positions on different sides of the aisle “pragmatic.” And in the theme of this new class, defies the definitions simple labels imply. For example, while Congressman Allred is a staunch proponent of strengthening the ACA, he also endorses the expansion of Medicare. Voted co-president of the freshman class by his peers, yet one of the last holdouts when it came to endorsing Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. Contradictions.
Still, those contradictions just might make Congressman Allred a perfect fit for his North Dallas district. His desire to serve his constituents reveals the earnestness of a man who was not only born and raised in the district, but also still calls that district home. Indeed, of all the questions posed to the Congressman, his most detailed response was to our query about his goals for his district.
Congressman Colin Allred (CA): “We – my staff and I – want to restore the constituent work of being an advocate and resource for the people in the district. I want folks to feel like they have someone in office they can call who will do everything we can to help with whatever their issue is. If you have an issue with your Medicare or Social Security or if you’re a veteran and you’re having trouble getting your benefits…reach out to us and we will go to bat for you and make sure that you get the services that you need.
“I want to make sure people understand that I’m their member of Congress, their advocate and that they can reach out to me regardless of party affiliation. I also want folks to feel like I’m present and that I’m accessible. I’ve held several town halls, making sure I stay in contact with people, making sure that they understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Because even if folks disagree with me, I want to hear their opinion so I can try to explain to them why I disagree.
“I’m a strong believer that there’s a lot we can agree on with folks on the other side and that if we could spend a little bit more time talking about those things…things like infrastructure, lower prescription drug prices, lower healthcare costs, job training…that we can move the ball forward in a way that satisfies not only my district, but the American people. I think people expect us to work together.
Dallas Weekly (DW): Bipartisanship? That seemed like something even the least jaded reporter would believe in today’s political environment, so we pressed for details, asking first about his colleagues in the Foreign Affairs Committee, which had recently been rocked over comments made by Representative Ilhan Omar.
(CA): “The committee is one that works very well. Over the past two weeks, several bills that we’ve put out have had bipartisan support on important issues. Like today, we voted on some bills regarding Venezuela, regarding the Russian influence in Crimea, things that are important for our international relations and those as well are all bipartisan, so it’s a committee that I think, so far, we’ve had a lot to agree on.”
“I certainly disagree with some of the comments that the representative made but I also think that we have to be worried about Islamaphobia, and about people using identity as a wedge to divide us. I think we need to focus on what unites us as much as possible.”
(DW): A reasonable answer for sure, but what about increased tensions on the Committee itself? Or between Congresswoman Omar and Chairman Engel?
(CA): “Honestly, I’ve been focused on the work we’ve been doing. The things that we’re doing extend far beyond our individual relationships. We need to make sure we’re exercising our Article 1 [of the Constitution] power as Congress to reassert our control over foreign policy matters that I think for too many years have been slipping to the Executive, especially under this President.”
(DW): Again, a remarkably positive approach. Not that we truly expected him to gossip about his colleagues, but it was still quite refreshing to hear such a thoughtful answer. And one that is, admittedly, quite charitable to his Republican colleagues while still acknowledging a recognition of issues causing conflict between Democrats and the Executive branch. Not bad.
We wanted to know more about his committee work. Noting his position on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, we chatted for a while about one of his campaign issues: high speed rail. Congressman Allred is a huge proponent of the proposed 90-minute Dallas to Houston line and thinks the highly-populous Texas triangle will ultimately provide a great opportunity for the state to lead the nation in the development of HSR. Asked about opposition from groups like “Texas Against HSR,” the Congressman replied:
(CA): “[The proposed Dallas to Houston HSR line] is following an existing corridor; that’s one of the reasons why it was chosen, because it would have the least impact on the folks in the area.
“We’re going to have to make some tough decisions about how we’re going to connect people and continue to deal with our growth, but I am positive and hopeful that we can get this project done in a way that’s consistent with our values and is respectful of the homeowners as well.