Republicans Look to Break Blue Barrier in South Texas

Latino voters may switch sides to give Mayra Flores a win
By Darlene McCormick Sanchez
Darlene McCormick Sanchez
Darlene McCormick Sanchez
June 12, 2022 Updated: June 13, 2022

Republican Mayra Flores remains on the offensive in Texas’s traditionally blue 34th Congressional District, making last-minute campaign stops in hopes of overwhelming her main Democratic rival in a special election on June 14.

Republicans on the national level have been pouring their funds and efforts into the race because they believe South Texas Latinos share the same concerns as conservatives about border safety and the economy. The possibility of making inroads into a Democratic stronghold has emboldened Republicans, who aim to flip the district red and regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Democrats caused the price of everything to skyrocket and created a border crisis they can’t fix,” Torunn Sinclair, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told The Epoch Times via text message. “They’ve completely abandoned South Texas.”

GOP supporters have made more than 106,000 phone calls, knocked on 34,000 doors, and sent out more than 100,000 texts and emails on Flores’s behalf, Macarena Martinez, Texas’s communications director for the Republican National Committee, told The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
Republican Mayra Flores, a legal immigrant from Mexico, is focusing on twin issues of improving the economy and border security in hopes of flipping Texas Congressional District 34 red. Photo courtesy of Mayra Flores.

“There’s a big chance we can flip three congressional districts down there,” Martinez said. “We have high hopes we will.”

On the state level, Texas’s Republican governor, Gov. Greg Abbott, and state Republican Party Chair Matt Rinaldi endorsed Flores as the GOP’s nominee for the full term in the 34th District race to be held this fall.

Flores, the front-runner in early polling, is a legal immigrant from Mexico who is married to a Border Patrol agent. She plans to make a campaign stop in Harlingen on June 13 with fellow Republican candidate Cassy Garcia, who is trying to flip the 28th Congressional District to red.

Dan Sanchez, the leading Democratic contender, is an attorney and former Cameron County commissioner from Harlingen. He, too, will be making a last-minute push with a rally in Kingsville the day before the June 14 election. His campaign got some late support with an endorsement from Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa on June 8, and a digital ad purchase from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last week.

Two other candidates, Republican Juana Cantu-Cabrera of South Padre Island and Democrat Rene Coronado of Harlingen, are also running in the special election. With four candidates, the likelihood of a runoff in mid-August is high, given that one candidate must get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid that scenario.

Flores told The Epoch Times that last-minute efforts to support Sanchez with money and endorsements are too little, too late.

“We are working nonstop and taking nothing for granted here in the home stretch of this race,” Flores said via text. “Our conservative message is resonating strongly with South Texans, and we feel confident heading into Tuesday.”

The race seems to have captured the attention of South Texas voters. Cameron County election Commissioner Remi Garza told The Epoch Times that turnout is expected to be about 10,000 voters, which is reasonably good for a rare special election.

Cameron County, which includes the cities of Brownsville and Harlingen, is about 90 percent Hispanic. More than 225,000 registered voters live in the county, which has a population of more than 422,000.

President Donald Trump greets supporters at Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2021. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

In smaller Bee County, election administrator Laura Warnix told The Epoch Times that people are interested in the race—and showing up to vote. She said that local Republicans and Democrats have been taking the race seriously and doing their best to engage residents.

According to the secretary of state’s office, the 11-county total for District 34 early voting was 16,065.

The special election was triggered this spring when Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) resigned to work for Akin Gump, a Washington-based law and lobbying firm.

Abbott called for a special election to fill the vacancy. The winner will finish Vela’s term ending in January 2023. A general election for the newly redrawn congressional district, which is much more favorable for a Democratic win, will occur in November.

If Flores wins the seat temporarily, she faces a tough race against Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas)—the Democratic nominee for the full term in the 34th District. He opted not to run in the special election.

In a Sept. 22, 2014 file photo, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, left, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, center, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry turn the first shovel-full of sand at the groundbreaking ceremony for the SpaceX launch pad at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The SpaceX venture, led by PayPal co-founder and electric car maker Musk, is one of two parts of the 21st-century space race being directed in the Texas by Internet billionaires.(AP Photo/Valley Morning Star, David Pike)
(L-R) Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the groundbreaking ceremony for the SpaceX launch pad at Boca Chica Beach, Texas, on Sept. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Valley Morning Star, David Pike)

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.