Judging from Congressman Bill Flores’ survey, some local leaders are not only stunned but dismayed that former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, less than a year after former Baylor Bears linebacker Colin Allred booted him from his Dallas district, now seeks to return to Capitol Hill by relocating to Waco and running for what’s regarded as a safe seat for any Republican — even Howdy Doody, strings and all. Seems local leaders thought this might be the right time to find someone from Waco ranks to succeed Flores, a Bryan Republican who announced last month he wouldn’t seek re-election, true to his 2010 vow not to be a career politician.
All this shows how naive local leaders can be to presume the time ripe for a local leader with civic experience to represent Waco in Washington. The very idea!
Maybe a transplanted Dallas Republican unable to win in his own district 80 miles off is the answer at this juncture. Amidst President Trump’s increasingly unhinged tirades and tantrums over an impeachment inquiry he has done everything to invite, Sessions would greatly reassure the embattled chief executive. As he made clear in a Wednesday interview with Trib staffer Tommy Witherspoon and in declaring his intention Thursday, Sessions would prove a loyal Trump ally — and we all know how the president demands fealty from his lawmakers. Surely that’s more important than some local priorities.
And, to be fair, Sessions, 64, does have a local connection. He was born in Waco and spent part of his youth here, even recalling athletic contests in his Witherspoon interview. And given that he served in Congress for 11 House terms (22 years for the mathematically challenged) and qualifies as a career politician — anathema to conservative Republicans except when it’s a conservative Republican — he could at least hit the ground running in Congress if we elected him. He wouldn’t have to spend time acquainting himself with confounding House protocols. He could go straight to work for President Trump.
Of course, Sessions could also prompt Wacoans to pursue something else for our city, a point sometimes lost in the chaotic national discussion. Sessions could unwittingly inspire some of us to look inward, consider regional priorities, survey worthy prospects among us, then determine if any of us has the cojones to run for a congressional seat to press more important matters than acting as Greek chorus member for a president in meltdown. Our candidate could talk of local issues and local needs and, if elected, champion local issues and address local needs. All politics is local, isn’t it? Or is it all about Trump anymore?
This is a uniquely defining moment for a city that faces steep challenges and is at the societal and developmental crossroads — one reason why Thursday’s announcement should provoke Wacoans. The Waco Trib editorial board in 2020 will interview Sessions closely in the manner that faithful, open-minded Trib readers have come to expect of us. And no one should rule out Pete Sessions as a congressional prospect right off. But his candidacy raises serious questions about the mettle, resolve and vision of qualified, experienced Waco leadership. Do any of us actually have the right stuff to run?