A Purple County at the Tipping Point
Collin County, like Texas overall, has been slowly turning from reliably Republican red to Purple and is on the verge of turning Democratic blue. Key races in 2020 will determine if 2020 is the year Democrats are able to flip the county, and possibly Texas, or if we will have to wait another cycle.
The above graphic shows the change over just two election cycles. The image on the left shows voting in the 2016 Presidential Election, comparing precinct by precinct votes for Clinton and Trump. By 2018, as shown by results in the Senate race of Beto O’Rourke vs incumbent Ted Cruz, many purple precincts in 2016 went blue, and many pink (low Republican advantage) precincts turned purple. Notably, the precincts to the east and north, the rural areas of the county, stayed solidly Republican. These are the areas that Democrats will need to turn in order to truly flip the county to Democratic.
The paper is first of a series looking at 2020 Collin County races, and focused on Texas State Legislature races. Subsequent papers will review US Congressional races and Collin County judicial races.
Part 1: State House Races
Collin County currently includes all or parts of five Texas State House districts: House District (HD)33, HD66, HD67, HD70, and HD89. All five are currently held by Republicans. However, HD66 and HD67 were very close in 2018, and are on a list of targeted State House districts to flip by Flip the Texas House, a group backed by former Senate and Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
HD66: This district is mostly in West Plano, with a small slice of north Dallas that is in Collin County and one precinct in Carrollton. Currently held by Republican Matt Shaheen, who has been in the seat since 2014 when he ran unopposed after defeating two Republican primary opponents. In 2016, Shaheen defeated the Democratic opponent 57% to 39%. However in 2018, Democrat Sharon Hirsch came within 392 votes, 50.3% to 49.7%, of defeating Shaheen.
After drawing a primary challenge in 2020, which Ms. Hirsch handily won, she is set up for a rematch with Shaheen. Sharon Hirsch, a former Plano ISD administrator who has been active in the Plano and Collin County community for many years, served as President of Women Organizing Women Democrats, as Senate District 8 Committeewoman, and founded the HD66 Club (the predecessor to the Plano Area Democrats Club, of which I am an officer). Since 2018, Sharon has continued to grow as a candidate. She spent much of the 2019 Legislative session in Austin, observing the process and reporting back home, since our current representative can’t be bothered to have town halls. Her platform is mostly the same as in 2018, with an emphasis on public education, reducing property taxes (which are tightly linked to public ed), women’s rights and civil rights generally, and this time, given the previous lege session, local control. For more information, to volunteer, or to donate, visit Sharon’s campaign website, https://www.sharon4tx.com/.
HD67: This district includes east Plano, the city of Allen, one Dallas precinct, two Garland precincts, and the northern part of Richardson that is in Collin County. The seat is currently held by Republican Jeff Leach, who’s been in office since winning an unopposed election in 2012. In 2014, Leach drew a Libertarian opponent but no Democratic opponent; he won with 78% of the vote. In 2016, he had a Democratic opponent but still won 57% to 40%. As a member of the so-called “Freedom Caucus” in the State House, Leach was one of the farthest-right extremists in the House. With a rapidly changing Plano electorate largely opposed to his brand of anti-education, anti-healthcare, and anti-pretty much everything, in 2018 Democratic challenger and political newby Sarah Depew came very close to an upset win. Leveraging a hard-working campaign that knocked on thousands of doors, Sarah was able to close the 2016 17-point gap to just over 2 points, with Leach scraping out a win 51.1% to 48.9%. Because of Sarah’s strong showing, HD67 is also targeted by the Flip the Texas House group.
Sarah Depew opted not to run in 2020, so there was a large field of four very solid Democratic candidates competing for the nomination, including Tom Adair, Rocio Hernandez, Anthony Lo, and Lorenzo Sanchez (Jenna Royal announced a run, but withdrew from the ballot prior to the primary). Following the March 3 Primary Election, Adair and Sanchez advanced to a runoff. That runoff has been postponed to July 14th due to the coronavirus pandemic emergency. Visit the following candidate pages for information, to volunteer, or to donate: Tom Adair — https://www.tomadairfortexas.com/; Lorenzo Sanchez — https://www.lorenzofortexas.com/.
HD89: This district encompasses most of south-east Collin County, including the towns of Fairview, Lucas, Parker, Murphy, and Wylie, as well as the largely rural areas surrounding Lake Lavon.
Republicans have held this seat since 2012, with then incumbent Jodie Laubenberg running unopposed both in the primary and the general election in 2012, defeating Democratic candidate Sameena Karmally by over 43 points in 2014, and defeating Democratic challenger Denise Hamilton and Libertarian Bob Worthington in 2016. Laubenberg did not run in 2018, and Republican Candy Noble won the Republican primary that year. In the 2018 General Election, Noble defeated Democratic candidate Ray Ash, although Ray received more votes than any recent Democratic candidate for this district (30,203).
In 2020, Ray Ash decided to try again for the seat, and prevailed in a primary challenge from Jon Cocks. Incumbent Rep Noble did not face a primary challenge; Plano ISD board member Angela Powell had announced a primary challenge for Candy Noble but withdrew before filing. Additionally, Libertarian Ed Kless declared candidacy for this seat.
“Sugar Ray” Ash is an Army veteran, retired CPA and tax attorney, and has long been involved in the east Collin County community. Ray served as a member of the Murphy Commission that wrote the city’s original charter in 2004, was a Texas State Delegate for President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, and a National Delegate for the 2012 Presidential election, again for President Barack Obama . He has worked tirelessly to promote free and fair elections and access to the ballot box through “Get Out The Vote” campaigns and “Souls to the Polls” initiatives. For information, to volunteer, or to donate to Ray Ash, see his campaign page at https://www.sugarray89.com/.
HD70: This district includes Collin County seat McKinney, plus parts of Prosper, Celina, Anna, and all of Weston, Melissa, and Princeton. Much of the district is unincorporated County lands, mostly very rural. Similarly to HD33, Republicans have held a significant advantage, with incumbent Scott Sanford running unchallenged in 2012 and 2014, and winning in 2016 with 67% of the vote over Democratic candidate John Bryant (28.5%) and two other candidates, a Libertarian and a Green Party candidate. In 2018, newcomer Democratic candidate Julie Luton closed the gap a bit, taking 38.3% of the vote, but still lost to Sanford’s 61.7%.
In 2020, Sanford, who was unopposed in the primary, will face political newcomer Democratic candidate Angie Bado, who also did not face a primary challenge. Ms. Bado is a former teacher who grew up in a rural dairy farming area in Pennsylvania. As a PTA leader for many years, she is a fierce advocate for strong public schools and education as a means to address rural poverty and opportunity. Republicans in the district may very well be tired of Sanford’s lack of support for their community; despite being a four-term incumbent, he’s only managed to raise $2,000 more than Ms. Bado. For information, to volunteer, or to donate to Angie Bado, visit her campaign page at https://badofortexas.com/.
HD33: One of the more gerrymandered districts in North Texas, HD33 includes all of Rockwall County, plus the more rural east and north areas of Collin County, parts of the fast growing cities of Prosper and Celina, and the Collin County part of the city of Frisco. Because of the rural areas tending to be more Republican, Democrats didn’t gain as much ground in HD33 in 2018 as in HD66 and HD67. Republican Justin Holland has held the seat since 2016; in 2014 his predecessor Scott Turner ran unopposed, and in 2012 had a Libertarian opponent but no Democrat. In 2016, Holland defeated Democratic candidate Karen Jacobs 67.8% to 28.8%; in 2018 Democratic candidate Laura Gunn closed the gap a bit to 65% to 35%.
For the 2020 race, Democratic candidate and political newcomer Andy Rose was unopposed in his primary, and will face incumbent Republican Justin Holland, who also had no primary challenger. For information, to volunteer, or to donate to Andy Rose, visit Andy’s http://www.andyrose2020.com.
2020 and Beyond
With Collin County growing past one million residents in 2019, the redistricting that will follow the 2020 Census will no doubt add at least one, if not two, State House districts to at least parts of the county. Ensuring that the redistricting is not done by a Republican-controlled State House, which will doubtless seek to use data analytics-driven redistricting to cement Republican control, means Democrats must flip the 17 seats targeted by the “Flip the Texas House” plan as well as hold onto the gains made in 2018. In Collin County, that means winning HD66 and HD67, and ideally flipping another seat, though that will be far more challenging. After HD66 and HD67, HD89 appears to be the most likely to flip; more people voted in the Democratic primary (16,832) than in the Republican primary (16,750).