Unprecedented Republican Latina stronghold in South Texas: Flores, Garcia, De La Cruz

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For the first time, District 34 in South Texas has voted Republican

Mayra Flores, a Republican, overturned a Democratic House seat in South Texas on Tuesday, adding to the GOP’s advances among Latino voters in the region from the 2020 election.

For the first time, a congressional district in South Texas has voted Republican, as the Party continues to gain ground among Latino voters. Mayra Flores successfully flips a US House district in South Texas, which has always been a Democratic stronghold. Mayra Flores, a Republican, won a special election to fill US Rep. Filemon Vela’s unexpired term. Democrats mostly avoided the special election until it was too late, while national Republicans pushed for Flores. 

Former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela left in March to work for a lobbying firm, leaving the position available. Flores will be the first Mexican-born congresswoman since Reconstruction, as well as the first Republican to represent the Rio Grande Valley. 

Mayra Flores will serve a 6 month term

She will, however, only be in the seat until January. In November, there will be another election. When Democrat Dan Sanchez abandoned the race, Flores, a respiratory care practitioner, had 51% of the vote to Sanchez’s 43% in a district where Latinos make up 85% of the population. Flores won the seat outright with a majority of the vote, eliminating the need for a runoff election.

According to Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune, “The winner of the special election will only have until January to complete Vela’s term. However, Republicans are keen to win the seat as they seek additional ground in South Texas, and the special election will be held under the 34th District’s earlier, more competitive boundaries. During last year’s redistricting process, new district lines were set, and the November election for a full term in Congress will be held under those borders.” 

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Trump endorsements making gains in Texas

For the first time in a century, Republicans gained momentum near the border in 2020, with Trump winning half of those counties.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump reduced the Democratic edge in Texas’ 34th District to single digits, part of a wave of Republican victories in the mainly Latino region. Previous Republican presidential candidates had lost the district to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton by double digits. It’s a continuation of the GOP’s recent advances among Latinos. 

On the campaign trail, Flores emphasized her conservative credentials. In discussing her past, she used aspects of Trump’s language and a lot of law-and-order imagery.

Flores has also expressed support for “America First,” a populist rightwing rallying cry for citizens who feel ignored by politicians. She claims her district has long had to “beg for scraps from Nancy Pelosi” and that “the Democratic party has taken for granted the loyalty and support south Texas has given them for decades” for more than a century.

Flores also wrote on her campaign website, “They do nothing to earn our vote or our support.” She also chastised President Biden for signing “a record number of executive orders to kill Texas jobs, weaken border security, and remove protection for the unborn,” according to her.

Republican Latinas on the rise

Mayra Flores’ triumph comes as Republicans speed their efforts to recruit Latino voters, and a string of polls and elections show a broader movement away from the Democrats among Latino voters. 

Flores is now part of a wider group of Republican Latinas from south Texas running for Congress, including Monica De La Cruz and Cassy Garcia. Monica De La Cruz Hernandez triumphed in a nine-candidate Republican primary for TX-15. Garcia won the GOP nomination for Texas’ District 28 as the Democratic race between Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros was pushed into a recount.

Flores outraised her rival special election candidates in the month preceding up to the primary, relying heavily on Republican support and blanketing the airwaves with TV and internet commercials. Many of her ads emphasized her marriage to a Border Patrol agent and her realization of “the American Dream,” while others chastised President Joe Biden for failing to secure the border.

Flores, a respiratory therapist, is a Mexican native. Flores boasts on her website that she was “raised with strong conservative values and to always put God and family first” by her parents and grandmother.

She has stated that her immigration to the United States at the age of six was “legal” and that she “gave her family the greatest gift, the gift of becoming a proud, naturalized American citizen” with the help

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