State Reps. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) and Jeff Leach (R-Allen) have both held on to their Collin County seats in the Texas House, defying predictions of a possible flip for both. Both conservative lawmakers, Shaheen is a current member of the Texas Freedom Caucus while Leach left in late 2018.
Each representative held on by a thread in 2018, when both districts went to Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke.
Leach, representing House District (HD) 67, won with 51 percent of the vote over progressive Democratic opponent Lorenzo Sanchez, who garnered 48.2 percent.
In HD 66, Shaheen came out a mere 391 votes ahead of Democrat Sharon Hirsch who ran and lost again to him this year. Shrinking vote shares for high-ballot Republicans led some to forecast blue clouds on the horizon in Collin County.
Both representatives ended up with more cash on hand by the final filing period, though high Democrat fundraising numbers up to late October were cause for alarm.
According to data from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, Shaheen won by a small but stronger margin this year in the absence of O’Rourke, 49.68 percent to 48.47 percent.
Education featured prominently in the race between Shaheen’s emphatic opposition to certain standardized tests and Hirsch’s long career in public schools. Shaheen, who has voted against bills that would boost per-student funding and allow certain districts greater flexibility to raise taxes, called for a delay of STAAR tests for the 2020-2021 school year. Shaheen has also spoken out against the STAAR test in the past, calling for it to be scrapped and traded for a better testing method.
Hirsch, a retiree of a long career in public school administration, opposes vouchers and educational savings accounts. She has called House Bill 3, 2018’s school finance bill that increased teacher pay and lowered local property tax rates, inadequate and incomplete.
Sanchez, a realtor and self-described progressive, brought police reform and Medicaid expansion to the forefront of the HD 67 debate. Healthcare occupied the top of Sanchez’s platform; he planned to expand Medicaid in the short term if elected and fight for a single-payer system down the road, per his website. His criminal justice plan prioritized the legalization of marijuana, the abolition of the death penalty, and certain sharper on-the-ground policies like requiring special prosecutors in all cases of police misconduct.
Leach touted his votes to cut down on surprise medical billing legislation and his authorship of a constitutional amendment prohibition on a state income tax. Leach also boasted the endorsements of both the sheriff and district attorney of Collin County alongside several police officers’ unions.
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