Republicans flip Democratic-controlled House seat in South Texas

A US House district in South Texas will send a Republican to Congress for the first time in its 10-year history.

Mayra Flores, a Republican health aid and respiratory care organization, scored a big win in a special election Tuesday for the party, which has been trying to build on its successes in 2020 in the Democratic stronghold of the Rio Grande Valley. She will be the first Latino Texas Republican in Congress.

Ms. Flores defeated three opponents in the special election to replace former Representative Philemon Villa, a Democrat who retired this year before the end of his term. She received more than 50 percent of the vote in Texas’ 34th congressional district, according to the Associated Press, and will avoid the expected run-off with Dan Sanchez, a Democrat and former Cameron County commissioner.

Her victory may only be temporary.

A special election was held to determine who would fill in the remainder of Mr. Villa’s term of office until the end of this year. Voters at the general election in November will decide who will become the district’s permanent representative starting in January. Representative Vicente Gonzalez, who currently represents a contiguous district, is the Democratic nominee for the month of November, widely seen as a candidate to win the race against Ms. Flores, who is also running for the seat permanently in November.

Republicans have directed huge amounts of money and attention to the race in recent weeks, seeking an early victory in an area that includes the border city of Brownsville. Ms. Flores collected 16 times the amount collected by the master. Sanchez did. She and her allies have spent more than $1 million on television advertising, while the Democrats have largely stayed away from broadcasting.

Republicans believe they have found the perfect candidate for the district in Ms. Flores, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was a young child. Her parents spent years working as immigrant farm workers in Texas. She is the wife of a Border Patrol agent and has campaigned for strict immigration enforcement in the overwhelmingly Mexican American region.

“We vote for California values, Austin values, but not South Texas values,” she said at her campaign event earlier this year. “This is our country.”

Like other Hispanic Republicans in the area, Dr. Flores has consistently attacked Democrats for not paying enough attention to South Texas, where former President Donald J. Trump made significant headway with Hispanic voters in 2020. She has fiercely embraced Trump’s wing of the party and his false electoral claims.

The special election presented significant challenges for Democrats.

Because of new lines drawn in the redistricting process, Democrats have a smaller margin in the special election than they would in November. the master. Villa surprised Democrats when he announced his decision in March to become a lobbyist before his term expired. the master. Gonzalez decided not to resign his current seat to run in the special election.

Democrats have been largely reluctant to put resources into a special election in a region they see as a safe bet in November. Instead, they were more focused on the 15th district next door, Mr. Gonzalez’s current seat. That area is seen as one of the few competitive areas in Texas this year.

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