SAN BENITO, Texas—Republican Mayra Flores won the special election for an open seat in 34th Texas Congressional District, flipping a heavily Hispanic district to the GOP.
“I’m forever grateful,” Flores said in a victory speech on June 14, her voice breaking with emotion. “For 100 years, we have been taken for granted.”
The victory proves that Republicans have made significant inroads in the heavily Hispanic Rio Grande Valley, which Democrats have dominated for decades.
Flores received about 51 percent of the vote, while Democratic rival Dan Sanchez received 43 percent.
Flores becomes the first Mexican-born woman to serve in Congress. She thanked God first, her family, and workers for her success.
Flores, a legal immigrant from Mexico who is married to a Border Patrol officer, campaigned on the idea that Democrats have taken Latinos for granted. She ran as a pro-life and pro-Second Amendment candidate, blaming Democrats for soaring food and gas prices.
The winner replaces former Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), who resigned this spring to work for Akin Gump, a Washington law and lobbying firm. The district lines are shifting for the next election in November, but Flores will hold this seat until January.
Republicans at the national level committed money and effort to the race, believing that South Texas Latinos also share conservatives’ concerns about border security and the economy.
The opportunity to break the South Texas blue barrier has emboldened Republicans, who aim to flip the region red and regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
At the state level, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, and Texas GOP chair Matt Rinaldi endorsed Flores. Democrats Vela and U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) backed Sanchez, an attorney and former Cameron County commissioner. Sanchez campaigned as a pro-life Democrat who campaigned on bringing jobs and better health care to the region. Both Flores and Sanchez are from Harlingen.
Ground support for Flores was strong. Macarena Martinez, Texas communications director for the Republican National Committee, told The Epoch Times that supporters made more than 106,000 phone calls, knocked on 34,000 doors, and sent out more than 100,000 texts and emails for Flores.
National Democrats were slow in supporting Sanchez, seeing the special election as a low priority. His campaign, which portrayed him as a conservative Democrat, got a late boost with an endorsement from Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa on June 8 and a digital ad purchase by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee around the same time.
Instead, Democrats have focused on the November contest for the 34th District, in which Gonzalez will face Flores. Gonzalez opted not to run in the special election.
Gonzalez, a moderate Democrat, is switching districts because the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature redrew the South Texas voter map, moving his McAllen home into District 34 from District 15.
It will be much more difficult for Flores to win the general election against Gonzalez because the redrawn district encompasses an area that Joe Biden won easily in 2020.