Pete Sessions expected to announce a run for open Bill Flores seat

Politics

Former Congressman Pete Sessions at an America First Policies event in downtown Dallas in 2018. Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions appears poised to make a comeback attempt — but not in his old Dallas-based district.

Sessions, who lost reelection last year, plans to announce Thursday he’s running for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, according to McLennan County GOP Chairman Jon R. Ker. The announcement will be at the county party headquarters in Waco, added Ker, who said he spoke with Sessions on Tuesday.

Sessions’ anticipated run is a surprise development after he spent months publicly flirting with running for his previous 32nd District seat, which is about 80 miles north of Flores’ more Republican 17th District. The initial reaction “has not been positive,” Flores told The Texas Tribune late Tuesday.

“Pete is a friend of mine, but I wish he’d called me first,” said Flores, R-Bryan. “I could have provided some valuable feedback to him.”

Sessions’ former campaign aides did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The conservative leaders and community leaders in the district who are aware of Pete’s intentions have told me they would prefer someone who currently lives, works, and serves in our communities,” Flores told The Tribune. “They strongly believe that we have ample talent here to serve as their next congressman or congresswoman.”

Sessions is not entirely new to Waco. He was born there and grew up there, where his dad, a former FBI director, worked as an attorney in the 1960s.

Still, two delegation insiders concurred with Flores that the reaction at this point has been lukewarm.

One source described Sessions’ activity as “rumblings” while another said an intermediary was feeling out Republicans in the district.

The 17th District is a much safer Republican district as Sessions’ previous 32nd District. Flores has been holding informational meetings with potential candidates and sought feedback Tuesday from district activists on a potential Sessions run, according to an email obtained by The Tribune.

“A former Texas congressman and someone who I consider a friend (Pete Sessions), has been asked by some Republican donors to consider running in TX17 district,” Flores wrote. The incumbent added that “while Pete has not called to ask for my thoughts,” he wanted to get feedback on Sessions’ interest in the race.

Sessions lost his seat last year to Dallas Democrat Colin Allred, and he has teased a potential bid to reclaim the 32nd District. But some Republicans are uneasy with him running again for that seat — Allred beat him by 7 percentage points — and a number of GOP candidates have already declared from it, including one who has received recognition from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Not many Republicans have declared for the seat since Flores announced his retirement about a month ago. A Republican who entered the race in recent days, Trent Sutton, formally announced his campaign Tuesday evening with a message for Sessions.

“I have met some of the other local individuals considering a run, and I can assure you, TX-17 has no shortage of talented, service-minded leaders,” Sutton said in a statement. “With all due respect Mr. Sessions, we got this.”

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