De La Cruz wins US House seat; Cuellar, Gonzalez reelected

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Border Democrats in Texas held the line in two key House races on Tuesday night, but Republicans didn’t come away empty handed, gaining one seat after an aggressive play to remake the U.S.-Mexico border into a midterm battleground.

The lone GOP victory in South Texas by Monica De La Cruz, who won an open race in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, fell short of bold predictions from Republicans of a sweep in the heavily Hispanic region.

But they still forced Democrats to defend their turf, including Rep. Henry Cuellar and Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who fended off the most competitive challenges of their careers to win reelection in an important stronghold for their party.

Gonzalez defeated Rep. Mayra Flores, who won a special election this summer, in a rare race between two sitting members of Congress. Cuellar defeated Republican Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz.

De La Cruz defeated Democrat Michelle Vallejo in a race that was the most favorable to Republicans, who drew the lines of the district after Texas was awarded two new House seats following the 2020 census.

“There was no red wave in South Texas. There wasn’t even a red ripple,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

Flores had won a special election to become Texas’ first Republican Latina in Congress, but this time she was running under a redrawn 34th Congressional District that was more favorable to Democrats.

“The RED WAVE did not happen. Republicans and Independents stayed home,” Flores tweeted. “DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE RESULTS IF YOU DID NOT DO YOUR PART!”

Republicans made Texas’ border region a priority in their pursuit of retaking control of Congress. The unusually competitive atmosphere in South Texas underlined the shifting political winds in an important stronghold for Democrats — and the ramifications beyond this election.

Republicans hoped that victories by any of three Latina candidates running for House seats in the region would deepen inroads the GOP is making nationally with Hispanic voters and demoralize Democrats in a place that has long been their turf.

In a sign of Republican optimism, Gov. Greg Abbott hosted his victory party in the border city of McAllen, reflecting the GOP’s eagerness to show conservatives are expanding their territory.

Millions of dollars have since poured into the region since it swung toward Trump in 2020, stunning Democrats. All three GOP House candidates outraised their Democratic opponents this summer.

Neither De La Cruz nor Vallejo ran to the middle. De La Cruz has defended abortion restrictions, promised tougher border security measures and drew praise from Trump during a recent rally in Texas. Vallejo courted liberal voters in a progressive campaign that has called for a $15 an hour minimum wage and challenged conventional wisdom that Democrats along the border are more moderate.

Cuellar has been among his party’s loudest critics of President Joe Biden, particularly over the administration’s response to a record number of migrant crossings on the border.

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