A Republican has won a special U.S. House of Representatives election in historically Democratic South Texas, signaling changes in the political preferences of Hispanic voters in the region and possibly previewing a strong GOP performance in the 2022 midterm elections.
Thirty-six-year-old Mayra Flores won the special election in Texas' 34th Congressional District Tuesday night, flipping a seat previously held by a Democrat Filemon Vela Jr., who resigned in March.
Unofficial results from the Texas Secretary of State's Office show Flores capturing nearly 51% of the vote in a four-way race that included two Democrats and another Republican. Flores exceeded the 50% threshold required to avoid a runoff election between the top two finishers and will serve the remainder of Vela's term until it expires on Jan. 3.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Flores will become the first Republican to represent the Rio Grande Valley-based congressional district in more than a century and a half, as well as the first congresswoman born in Mexico.
On her website, Flores has characterized herself as "pro-God," "pro-life" and "pro-family." Born to migrant farmworkers, Flores moved to the United States when she was 6. As she grew older, Flores worked with her parents in the cotton fields in Memphis, Texas, to earn extra money for school clothes and supplies. In 2004, she graduated as a respiratory care practitioner
"My Christian faith is a core part of who I am," she said. "My parents raised me to be a strong woman of faith and defending [individuals'] religious liberties will always be a priority of mine."
Vowing to "always fight for the unborn and advocate for pro-life policies in Washington," Flores identified her family as "the most important thing in my life."
"I was raised with strong family values and work to instill them in my own children," she stated. "Family values are one thing that [makes] our community in South Texas so special and so strong."
Flores addressed her win on Twitter Tuesday night: "This historic win will bring back God to the halls of Congress!"
Describing her victory as "a win for the people who were ignored for so long" and "a message that the establishment will no longer be tolerated," Flores proclaimed, "we have officially started the red wave."
This historic win will bring back God to the halls of Congress! This win is for the people who were ignored for so long! This is a message that the establishment will no longer be tolerated! We have officially started the red wave!! #TX34— Mayra Flores For Congress ???????????? (@MayraFlores2022) June 15, 2022
God, Family, Country pic.twitter.com/pNn8UYoPor
Democrat Dan Sanchez, who received about 43% of the vote, conceded to Flores in a Facebook statement posted Tuesday night.
"Based on the results, we came up short tonight despite being outspent by millions of dollars from out of state interests and the entire Republican machine," he wrote. "Too many factors were against us, including little to no support from the National Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."
Flores' victory reflects the dramatic political realignment underway in South Texas.
According to the Daily Kos, a liberal blog that keeps track of presidential election results by congressional district, President Joe Biden carried the 34th District by 4 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. Four years earlier, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the district by 21.5 percentage points. In 2012, the district supported then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat, by 22.5 percentage points.
Additionally, Flores' victory in a heavily Hispanic congressional district comes at a time when President Joe Biden, a Democrat, is suffering from record-low approval ratings among Hispanic voters.
A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University released last week measured Biden's approval rating among Hispanics at 24%, with 58% disapproving of his job performance. Exit polling from the 2020 presidential election shows that Biden won Hispanic voters by a 2-1 margin over former President Donald Trump.
In a previous interview with The Christian Post, Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, attributed Latino voters' "abandoning the Democratic Party or leftist ideologies" to "their commitment to life," referring to their opposition to abortion.
Labeling the Democratic Party as "a new progressive, socialist, anti-right, anti-Christian" party that "completely ignores the rights of individuals and that we are created in the image of God, with God-ordained rights," Rodriguez maintained that "Latinos are not going to stand for that because we are a people of faith."
Flores is running as the Republican nominee for the full two-year term that begins on Jan. 3. However, this fall's election will occur under new districts created during the decennial redistricting process.
Data compiled by Politico reveals that Texas' 34th Congressional District became much friendlier to Democrats following redistricting, jumping from a district that supported Biden by 4 points to one that favored him by nearly 16.
Flores will face Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, who currently represents Texas' 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in November's election. Gonzalez is running in the 34th District after redistricting transformed the 15th District from one that supported Biden by approximately 2 points to a constituency favoring Trump by nearly 3 points.
Based on statistics compiled by Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics, Flores' victory will bring the number of Republican women in the U.S. House of Representatives to 33.
The 117th U.S. Congress began in January 2021 with 30 Republican women serving in the House, but a special election victory in Louisiana last year, along with special election wins in California and Texas in the past week, have increased the number of GOP women in the chamber.
Democrats have 89 women currently serving in the House, outnumbering their Republican peers by a nearly 3-1 margin.
The special election in Texas' 34th Congressional District comes less than five months before the 2022 midterm elections.
Based on Biden's low approval ratings, Republicans are expected to pick up seats in Congress, especially in the House of Representatives. The RealClearPolitics average of the generic congressional ballot, which asks voters which party they want to control Congress, shows Republicans leading Democrats by 3.5 percentage points.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com