Politics & Government

Rep. Sessions, targeted by Democrats, shrugs off GOP help for 2018

House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Rep. Pete Sessions is one of three Texas Republicans being targeted by national Democrats in 2018, but he doesn’t want his party wasting resources on his race.

Sessions is a former chairman of the national party’s House campaign arm. But he wants the National Republican Congressional Committee, which will spend millions helping Republican congressional candidates, to stay away.

“I begged the NRCC, even when I was chairman, ‘Keep the hell away from Dallas, Texas,’” Sessions told the Star-Telegram Thursday. “We need to go in somewhere else, it’s up to me to win in Dallas, Texas. It’s not up to some other group.”

He’s also turning down help from well-heeled outside groups that are working on behalf of other Texans.

Even as a major GOP super PAC set up shop to help the two other targeted Texans last week, San Antonio Rep. Will Hurd and Houston area Rep. John Culberson, Sessions said he was not worried how he’d fare without that help. He said he has a well-funded campaign war chest, as well as experience running tough races.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won Sessions’ district by about two percentage points in 2016 — a nearly 15 point swing from Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s performance there in 2012.

Several Democrats have signed up to run against Sessions, including former Clinton adviser Ed Meier, who’s raised $600,000 since joining the race in May. Also running are Democrats Lillian Salerno, an Obama administration appointee, and Colin Allred, a civil rights lawyer.

Democrats say they’re taking the race seriously. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already spent money on digital ads attacking Sessions over the House GOP’s health care proposal.

Sessions has $1.2 million stockpiled for his re-election. He raised $437,000 in the most recent fundraising quarter, which ended Sept. 30.

Sessions said he supports national Republicans’ decision to help Hurd, whose district has switched between Republican and Democratic control in recent years, and Culberson, whose district was impacted this summer by Hurricane Harvey. Hurd ended the third quarter with $870,000 on hand. Culberson had $389,000, which was less than two of his Democratic challengers.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., set up campaign offices in both the Hurd and Culberson districts last week.

The group’s leaders made a fundraising trip to Dallas last week, but skipped Sessions’s district in its first allocation of field offices. Corry Bliss, the group’s executive director, said more offices could be opened in Texas later.

Sessions said he’d be surprised if that included him.

“The difference between myself and others is I have $1.2 million, and will have $1.5 million at the end of the year,” said Sessions. “I know how to win races. I’ve done this. I know what I’m doing, we’re just fine.”

Andrea Drusch: 202-383-6056, @AndreaDrusch

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