By James Russell
Special to the TJP
Congressman Colin Allred and businesswoman Genevieve Collins, both of Dallas, squared off during a virtual debate on Sunday, Oct. 18, hosted by AJC–Dallas and Temple Shalom and supported by several community partners including Congregation Beth Torah, Temple Emanu-El, NCJW, BLEWS of North Texas and Cathedral of Hope.
The candidates for the 32nd Congressional District, which includes northeast Dallas County and a portion of Collin County, provided differing visions for rebuilding the country after the COVID-19 pandemic has killed 222,000 Americans and seen 12 million people lose their jobs. They clashed on issues such as healthcare and foreign policy while affirming their support for Israel and a two-state solution.
Republicans held the seat from 2003 until 2018, when Allred knocked off longtime Congressman Pete Sessions. Now Collins is seeking to win it back..
Collins, who is running for office for the first time, touted her experience as executive at education technology firm Istation. Allred, an attorney, said he is a bipartisan dealmaker with endorsements from the conservative-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Dallas Morning News editorial board as well as labor unions like the AFL-CIO.
“It has been an honor of my life to represent the district I grew up in,” he said, touting a successful new Veterans Affairs hospital in Garland, the new United States–Mexico–Canada trade deal and successfully pushing for a bullet train between Dallas and Houston.
Collins chided Allred, however, for voting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi “100% of the time.”
If elected, she said, she would focus on jobs, protecting pre-existing conditions and “fully funding the police” –– referring to the activist movement calling for policing reforms that emerged following multiple police-related killings of people of color. Republicans have sought to tie Democrats to the movement. “Just two weeks ago he voted to defund police by $600 million,” said Collins, who is backed by the Dallas Police Association.
Allred said he also does not support defunding the police and voted for a COVID-19 relief bill that added $600 million to help law enforcement, including more than $300 million for a program that helps hire additional officers and $300 million to help law enforcement cover costs associated with the coronavirus.
Allred said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Republicans rejected the House bill, saying it was too expensive. That led Pelosi and the House to scale back the original bill’s scope, though not all the police funding was scrapped.
“You’ve been fearmongering throughout this campaign about not only me, but also what’s going to happen if I get re-elected, that I’m going to try and defund the police,” Allred said. “You’ve darkened my skin in mailers. That’s not who we are here in North Texas, and so I think you should be responsible for what you’ve done in your advertisements as well … I don’t think that’s what reflects the attitude that I’m hearing here tonight.”
They also disagreed on Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the federal judge nominated by Trump to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court who is expected to be confirmed this week. Collins said the Constitution requires a president to nominate a judge upon a vacancy.
Allred took issue with the hasty confirmation process, which he called a hypocritical move by McConnell and Trump. When President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to succeed the late Antonin Scalia 11 months from election, McConnell blocked it until Trump won.
“He’s rushing a judicial nominee but not moving COVID legislation,” he said. “We’re doing so much damage to SCOTUS. Let the American people weigh in and vote.”
Collins defended the executive branch’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government fully unleashed its power and resources, but Congress delayed,” she said.
Allred disagreed, citing that the country’s deaths count for more than 20% of global deaths.
The candidates differ on the United States’ role in foreign policy as well, though both are strong supporters of Israel and oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel movement.
“The president has walked away, questioned or says these institutions have not served purpose anymore. We’ve abandoned our fundamental values. I’ve been working to re-assert our role in foreign policy especially as member of the Foreign Policy Committee,” Allred said.
But our European allies are not paying their fair share into democratic institutions such as the United Nations, Collins said, pivoting to the topic of Israel. “I stand with former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who stood for Israel.” She added, “I’m 100% behind a two- state solution.”
Allred, who visited the region as part of a congressional delegation, called Israel one of the country’s strongest allies. “The only clear way forward is a two-state solution where both have security and autonomy,” he said.
He strongly opposes the BDS movement. He co-sponsored a 2019 bipartisan nonbinding resolution condemning the movement. It passed 398 to 17.
“The BDS movement is trying to delegitimize Israel. No one serious is supportive of this movement. We need to tamp down efforts like this because of the diaspora and need for a Jewish homeland.”
The debate was moderated by KERA 90.1 Senior Editor Sam Baker. Almost 700 people watched the debate live by registering through Zoom, while another 1,400 watched the Facebook Live stream. Subsequently the debate has been watched several hundred times on Facebook, and C-SPAN has rebroadcast it twice. The debate is still available to view on the AJC-Dallas Facebook page.
Election Day is Nov. 3. Early voting ends Friday, Oct. 30.