Northeast Tarrant

Can Democrats defeat Kenny Marchant? Why 4 candidates see themselves in a ‘blue wave’

District 24 Rep. Kenny Marchant is shown in a 2014 file photo.
District 24 Rep. Kenny Marchant is shown in a 2014 file photo. rmallison@star-telegram.com

The four Democrats running for the District 24 U.S. House race all believe the Republican incumbent, Kenny Marchant, is vulnerable this year.

Marchant, 67, R-Coppell, has $1,657,984 in cash on hand, making him a formidable opponent to whichever Democrat wins the primary. He has said that he favors limited government and local control of schools and that he has “a consistent record of fighting for lower taxes and the elimination of wasteful spending.”

He does have a GOP primary opponent, Jonathan Davidson, who hasn’t responded to email requests from the Star-Telegram for an interview or filed a campaign expense report.

In an online campaign questionnaire, Davidson, 46, said his top goal was “to obtain access to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was founded in 1978.”

District 24 stretches across parts of Northeast Tarrant County as well as portions of Dallas and Denton counties. In Tarrant County, it includes Bedford, Colleyville, Euless, Grapevine and portions of Hurst, Southlake and Keller.

The Democrats remain confident they can make the district part of a “blue wave” of Democratic victories in 2018. They largely agree on the issues but differ on who would present the toughest challenge to the Republican incumbent.

Jan McDowell, a certified public accountant from Carrollton, ran against Marchant in 2016 but was easily defeated. Marchant got 56 percent of the vote to McDowell’s 39 percent.

Still, McDowell, 64, said she believes Marchant has become “remarkably inaccessible” and is ripe to be defeated in 2018.

“Constituents can’t contact him,” McDowell said. “His office door is often locked. I believe he hasn’t held a town hall meeting since 2009.”

Todd Allen, a 38-year-old Irving schoolteacher who lives in Hurst, said the refusal to hold town hall meetings shows that Marchant cannot meet even the most basic level of representation.

“You’re going to have people in that audience who are not going to be happy with you, but that’s just part of the job,” Martin said.

John Biggan, a 34-year-old University of Texas at Arlington research scientist and instructor who also lives in Hurst, said Marchant’s inactivity is being noticed by those in the district

“When I speak to both liberals and conservatives, what I hear over and over is they have the same problem with Kenny that I do, that he doesn’t do anything,” Biggan said.

A fourth Democrat, Josh Imhoff, a 47-year-old Coppell attorney, filed on the last day of campaign filing. He has yet to file a campaign expense report but said he is a serious candidate. Running his own business and having firsthand experience with healthcare issues raising five sons has given him insight into the issues many people in the district regularly face, Imhoff said.

“I think my appeal as a candidate will be a challenge for Kenny,” Imhoff said. “If he tries to duck and hide, I’ll be a loud voice that won’t let him hide. I absolutely think he’s vulnerable.”

Why are they running?

Biggan believes focusing on healthcare is crucial.

“It affects what job you take and things like whether or not you can start your own business,” Biggan said. “If we can start to address cost we start to increase job access.”

As a high school teacher in Irving, Allen has encountered the immigration issue firsthand. And he has been impressed by the Dreamers, who are some of the best students in his classes.

“One of the things I have benefited from is seeing the very best kids in our high school, kids benefiting from this opportunity,” Allen said. “I talk to them and I know they’re as American and you and I.”

McDowell said her financial background as a CPA brings a fresh approach to the race.

“No matter what your hot button issue is, it all comes back to the money,” McDowell said. “I think the tax bill was a total sham, a giveaway to to the wealthy. People may get a little more in their paycheck, but percentage-wise it was totally skewed to the wealthy and corporations.”

Imhoff said District 24 brings an “aspirational microcosm” that shows what’s right about the United States, though he said there are challenges over immigrant issues in Irving and Farmers Branch.

“It’s a diverse district with a high immigrant population, excellent schools, excellent hospitals, DFW Airport — it’s sort of showing the best of what that brings to our country.”

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna

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