Meet The Former NFL Linebacker Running For Congress In Texas

Colin Allred aims to protect north Texas from Donald Trump’s nativist agenda

This article is the second installment of the Blue Texas Project, a series of interviews with Texas Democrats running for Congress in 2018.

Colin Allred (Original Artwork by Brett Nettles)

Colin Allred (Original Artwork by Brett Nettles)

A disastrous start to President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office has motivated a large number of Texas Democrats to declare their intention to run for Congress well in advance of the 2018 midterm elections. Among those who have announced a run is former NFL linebacker Colin Allred.

While Allred, who spent four seasons with the Tennessee Titans, will probably be the only candidate featured in Sports Illustrated this election cycle, it is his credentials as a civil rights attorney that qualify him to run for office. Most recently he worked in the Obama Administration at the Department of Housing & Urban Development alongside former HUD Secretary Julián Castro.

If Allred can make it through a potentially crowded Democratic primary in Texas’ 32nd Congressional District he will challenge Pete Sessions, a congressional ally of President Trump, who has served in Congress since 1997.

Rep. Sessions did not have a Democratic challenger in the 2016 election and was easily re-elected with 71% of the vote, despite Hillary Clinton winning his district. Clinton’s narrow victory in Sessions’ district has raised hopes for future Democratic victories in the district, which consists of north Dallas and its eastern suburbs.

Allred told me unseating Sessions will not be easy. Sessions is a Republican power broker and chairman of the House Rules Committee. The Dallas Morning News reported last month that national Republicans believe Sessions is “vulnerable,” and will pour money into the district to retain his seat.

Sessions made local headlines in March when he appeared to talk down to constituents at a town hall meeting in the Dallas suburb of Richardson.

“You know what? I understand why you are frustrated,” Sessions told the crowd according to The Texas Tribune. “You don’t know how to listen.”

If Allred needs a Democratic blueprint for winning in this traditionally conservative area he may look to Texas State Representative Victoria Neave. In 2016, Neave defeated three term Republican incumbent Kenneth Sheets in Texas House District 107, which overlaps with parts of Allred’s district.

Texas’ 32nd Congressional District

Texas’ 32nd Congressional District

Read my Monday, May 1 interview with Colin Allred below. It is lightly edited for clarity.

MR: You worked for Housing & Urban Development, you have also been a Civil Rights attorney. Were you always planning to run for office or were you motivated by what happened in November?

Allred: That’s a good question. I have always been in leadership positions. I was the captain of my football team at Baylor. In law school I was in the student government, but I was not always planning to run for office because I thought that through my civil rights legal work, that the avenues that I wanted would be there to make a change that I wanted to see happen, but this last election really shook up everything and made me think that while I still think that using the legal avenues is an important part of the equation, we also need people in public office who will stand up for civil rights and civil liberties.

MR: Hillary Clinton won your district 48 to 47 percent. Democrats are somewhat notorious for not turning out for midterm elections. Is it possible to replicate those kind of high numbers in the midterms?

Allred: This is where I was born and raised and I have just been blown away by the energy that I have seen here within this district since the last election. A bunch of people coming together and standing up for their community. We are up against a really tough opponent. I think we all have to admit that, but if we come together as a community and people really invest in this campaign and use it as a vehicle for getting their voices heard then we can do this and I don’t think the fact that it’s a midterm will hold us back.

“The people here have expressed themselves in 2016 by rejecting Trump and the energy I am seeing on the ground is telling me that they are ready for change in 2018 as well.”

MR: Your district is somewhat awkwardly drawn, perhaps not as bad as some other districts, but does gerrymandering hurt your chances here?

Allred: I think that we have to acknowledge that there has been a consistent effort to dilute the vote and to restrict the vote in Texas for a while now. I think that this district is one that is ready for change, regardless of the way it is drawn. The people here have expressed themselves in 2016 by rejecting Trump and the energy I am seeing on the ground is telling me that they are ready for change in 2018 as well. I am not as concerned with the current boundaries, but I do think it has to be acknowledged that there has been a consistent effort here to dilute and restrict the vote through any means necessary basically.

MR: You mentioned Donald Trump in that answer. He has been President for 100 days now. How do you assess that first 100 days?

Allred: It has been a very difficult time for the country. One of the most difficult times we have been through in terms of lack of leadership that is being shown and in terms of some of the policies and rhetoric coming out of this administration. I think the people in this area feel frightened and feel like their government is not on their side. That is driving the energy to make some change. It is important now more than ever that a new generation of leaders steps up, comes forward, and says “OK. This is not who we are. This is not the country we all grew up loving, not who we are going to be,” and reject what is going on in the Trump administration and that is being supported by his allies in Congress, including Congressman Sessions.

MR: If Democrats were to obtain a House majority in 2018. Should they make an effort to impeach Donald Trump?

Allred: I think that is putting the cart ahead of the horse here. The first thing we need to do is to make sure as Democrats is make sure we are listening to our constituents and listening to the people out there who want change and that we are providing the message that they want to hear and these folks know we are going to fight for them. Part of fighting for them is saying we need to have an economy that works for everybody in this district. Part of fighting for them is making sure that everyone has access to good and decent healthcare so no one has to choose between getting something fixed and going bankrupt. A big part of that is having someone stand up for your civil rights and civil liberties and make sure that your government is on your side and not discriminating against you. I think that is what we need to do. What we do from there if we retake the majority, we can discuss that once we get to that point.

MR: I want to touch on some local issues. Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities bill, is on its way to becoming law in Texas. How do you feel about Senate Bill 4 and do you think it will hold up in court?

Allred: I think Senate Bill 4 is a misguided and discriminatory piece of legislation that, if it is signed into law, will be a stain on our state’s history. It is the equivalent of the Arizona show your papers law (SB 1070). I think it is a big mistake and I also think it is not who we are as Texans. We are a diverse state that has been diverse for a long time now. We are used to different types of people. We are also a state that believes in independent thinking and independent leadership. Following this national trend trying to act tough on immigration is not the Texas way, in my opinion. So I hope it is challenged and I hope it is overturned.

“There is no time in our history where we will look back on enshrining any kind of explicit discrimination in our law as a positive time.”

MR: Do you think its necessary to have a bathroom bill in Texas?

Allred: Absolutely not, absolutely not. There is no time in our history where we will look back on enshrining any kind of explicit discrimination in our law as a positive time in our history. Senate Bill 6 (the bathroom bill) is something that is explicitly discriminatory and we need to do everything we can to resist it. Beyond that, these are not just state issues here in Texas, these are national issues. There is an effort going on by some in the Republican Party to divide and conquer by splitting groups of people up and pitting them against each other. I think that what we have to do as Democrats and as the new generation of leadership is talk about what binds us together and how much stronger it is than what separates us. We have basic American values that we all share and this is not who we are.

MR: As a member of Congress how do you see yourself fighting discriminatory policies like enhanced immigration raids and a border wall?

Allred: We need comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship. Instead of doing this piecemeal and discriminatory acts by states and using Immigration and Customs Enforcement as some sort of broad net deportation force. First and foremost we need to handle this comprehensively and do what we should have done years ago. In terms of determining how we are going to handle our immigration system. Beyond that, we don’t need a wall. No one in Texas leadership who is responsible wants a wall. It’s a waste of our money and something we need to fight back against with everything that we have. More than that, even going one step further, we need to put an end to this rhetoric and these attempts to attack a significant percentage of our population and to demonize them and act like they are a part of the problem. Immigrants have enriched our country. We need to make sure that we are supporting them and we are still that beacon of hope for the rest of the world and people know that America is a place where equality and justice determine who we are.

“Donald Trump can’t change who we are. This current version of the Republican Party can’t change who America is. This fever will pass, but it has to be beaten.”

MR: Right now, do you think America is still that place?

Allred: We are. Donald Trump can’t change who we are. This current version of the Republican Party can’t change who America is. This fever will pass, but it has to be beaten. We are still that country and we are still those people. Our current leadership does not represent that and that is why I am running for Congress.

MR: Is there anything that you learned on the football field that you can apply to running for Congress and being a Congressman?

Allred: Absolutely. First of all, this is going to be a very tough race and it is going to be a very tough fight, if I am elected, to get the things done that we want to get done. I had to fight my entire football career. I was not a highly sought after recruit, but by the time I finished at Baylor I was captain of the team and one of are better players and got a chance to play in the NFL. When I first tried to make it in the NFL I didn’t make it, I got cut and had to come back and try again. That perseverance and determination, those are things that I take away from football that I think will help in this and going forward. I learned a lot of great lessons in terms of overcoming adversity, fighting for what you believe in, and fighting as hard as you can every single day. That is what I want to do. I want to fight every single day for the people of this area. Because I grew up with them, I am one of them, and I want to represent them.

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