This year's Democratic National Convention might not have a big solo speech by a Texan — much to the chagrin of some in the state party. But two relatively new elected officials in the state will be receiving another kind of recognition.
Instead of one keynote address Tuesday night, the party has selected 17 "rising stars" of the party to jointly deliver remarks. Two are Texans: U.S. Rep. Colin Allred and state Rep. Victoria Neave.
Their involvement will put them on national television and indicate their stature within the Biden campaign and among national Democrats. What do the pair have in common? They are both from Dallas. And both endorsed Biden at crucial points during the primary campaign. Here's what else you need to know about Texas' two "rising stars."
U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas
- A newcomer to running for office prior to his 2018 election to the U.S. House, Allred managed to top a talented field of Democratic primary rivals and beat expectations when he defeated then-U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions by 6.5 percentage points in the North Dallas-based 32nd Congressional District.
- Allred endorsed Biden in January of this year, not long after his original candidate, Julián Castro, dropped out of the race.
- National Democrats view Allred as a potential future statewide candidate, and he arrived at the U.S. Capitol in January 2019 to much interest. Mostly, however, Allred has kept his head down in his freshmen term, even as his fellow freshmen elected him as their class co-president.
- He was also class president at Dallas' Hillcrest High School and a football star. He went on to play linebacker at Baylor University and then for several seasons in the NFL. He will not be the first Baylor graduate to serve as a Democratic keynote speaker. He follows then-state Treasurer Ann Richards, who spoke at the 1988 convention in Atlanta.
- Allred later graduated from the University of California, Berkeley law school and then worked as the Dallas-Fort Worth regional voter protection director on then-state Sen. Wendy Davis' 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Later, he worked for another past Texas Democratic keynote speaker, Castro, at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during President Barack Obama's second term.
- He is one of two Texas U.S. House Democrats whom Republicans say they will target in the fall. His Republican opponent, businesswoman Genevieve Collins, suggested that was the impetus for Democrats giving him him such a platform. "To me, that just shows that the party is nervous about where he stands, that they want to give him more of a spotlight because this district is vulnerable," she said Monday on a Trump campaign conference call. "And I think that Democrats and Colin Allred both know it." But as the political environment has darkened in Texas for Republicans, two of the top U.S. House race handicappers — The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections — suggest Allred has the advantage heading into the fall.
State Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas
- Neave, who has served in the Texas House since 2017, represents parts of Dallas, Mesquite and Garland and has ascended through her party’s ranks during her time in office. Neave serves as vice chair of the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence and as a member of the House Corrections Committee. Neave is co-chair of the Dallas-area delegation to the Texas Legislature.
- She ousted Republican Kenneth Sheets by fewer than 900 votes in the state’s most expensive state House race in November 2016. While campaigning, Neave cast herself as a champion for the district’s middle-class residents, emphasizing issues such as higher wages and affordable education.
- Neave hit the ground running as a first-term House member in 2017, authoring a bill that crowdfunded money to test the state’s backlog of thousands of rape kits. She built on that progress during the last session in 2019, co-authoring a bill with state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to require, among other things, the state to audit the number, location and status of all rape kits filed with the state. Both bills earned bipartisan support, giving Neave the reputation of a lawmaker willing to work across the aisle in an at-times polarized Legislature. State Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said Neave “has been a leader [in the caucus] since the day she was elected,” pointing to her work as a leading organizer for the first Dallas Women’s March and for “fighting on behalf of assault victims or working for meaningful gun safety measures.” Neave, Turner said in a statement to the Tribune, “is a leader Texas can be proud of.”
- Looming over Neave’s reelection campaign in 2018 was a June 2017 arrest for driving while intoxicated. According to court documents, Neave, who struck a tree in a Dallas-area neighborhood, had a blood-alcohol level that was almost twice the legal limit. Neave pleaded no contest to the charges and has since expressed regret, calling the incident a “personal mistake.” Republican Deanna Metzger, Neave’s opponent in 2018, capitalized on the lawmaker’s arrest during the campaign, saying voters in the district “want someone in the House who will follow the laws they help write.” Neave won reelection that year by roughly 14 percentage points.
- Neave endorsed Biden in September 2019, when two Texans — Castro and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso — were still in the presidential race. “Out of a field of talented candidates, all of whom I respect and appreciate, it's time to stick my neck out for someone who has been in the trenches fighting for our community for decades," Neave told The Dallas Morning News at the time of her endorsement. "Estoy con Tio Joe." Neave’s former chief of staff, Rebecca Acuña, a Texas Democratic operative who worked for Davis’ 2014 gubernatorial bid and for various members of the Legislature, was recently named Biden’s Texas state director.
Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.
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