Gonzales

Ratings Change: Races for 2 GOP Seats Shift to Toss-Ups

Texas’ Pete Sessions and Kentucky’s Andy Barr face strong Democratic challengers

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, faces Democrat Colin Allred in his bid for a 12th term representing the Dallas area. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In 2010, Texas Rep. Pete Sessions led Republicans to a historic 63-seat gain in the House and a new GOP majority as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Now, he’s at significant risk of losing his own seat.

Sessions represents the Dallas-area 32nd District, which Hillary Clinton carried by 2 points in 2016. It’s the type of suburban, college-educated area that has been revolting against President Donald Trump since he took office. But for much of the cycle, Sessions benefitted from a fundraising advantage and a competitive Democratic primary, which was only decided in a May runoff.

The 11-term congressman faces Colin Allred, a civil rights lawyer who played in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans and has local roots. Sessions had a $1.9 million to $943,000 cash on hand advantage over Allred at the end of the second quarter on June 30. But Democrats in top-tier races haven’t had problems raising money, and Allred isn’t likely to lose because he didn’t raise enough money.

Sessions, 63, has 10 successful re-elections under his belt, but this will be the toughest race yet of his almost 22-year House career. Allred, a 35-year-old first-time candidate, presents a stark contrast to Sessions and could benefit from voter disapproval with Trump and Republicans in Congress.

It’s clear that this race is more than a case of a Republican member at risk because he represents a Clinton district. We’re changing the Inside Elections rating from Likely Republican to Toss-up

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More than 800 miles away, it’s clear that Kentucky GOP Rep. Andy Barr is in deep electoral trouble as well.

Trump carried the Lexington-area 6th District by 15 points, but Democrat Amy McGrath is more than just a viral-video sensation. The Marine pilot not only won a competitive Democratic primary over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, she benefited from the early advertising and attention. McGrath starts the general election sprint with higher and more favorable name recognition than many of her fellow Democratic challengers across the country.

Barr had a $2.8 million to $734,000 cash on hand advantage on June 30 because McGrath had to spend so heavily to win the nomination. But she should be able to raise more than enough to deliver her message. It will be up to Barr and the Republicans to define the race in traditionally partisan and ideological terms.

We’re changing the Inside Elections race rating from Leans Republican to Toss-up.

Since the 6th District backed Trump in 2016, a Democratic victory here would buoy the party to a majority, considering there are enough districts where the president didn’t do as well for Democrats to gain the 23 seats they need to flip the House. And with one of the earliest poll-closing times nationwide, the race will be among the most-watched in the country on election night.

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