Republican Mayra Flores’ win in a special election in Texas flipped a heavily Hispanic House district controlled for a century by Democrats, fueling Republican confidence in a November red wave and underscoring deep dissatisfaction with President Biden and congressional Democrats.
Mrs. Flores, a former Hispanic outreach chair for the Hidalgo County Republican Party, defeated Democrat Dan Sanchez with a “God, Family and Country” campaign in the 34th Congressional District, which stretches 165 miles from Corpus Christi to Brownsville on the border with Mexico.
Mrs. Flores, who will be the first Mexican-born member of Congress, pledged to stop the massive surge of illegal immigration impacting the district and to prioritize fixing an economy that is crushing the working class with soaring gas and grocery prices.
“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 a red wave!” Mrs. Flores, 36, tweeted after she was declared the winner with 51% of the vote, which beats the threshold for avoiding a runoff.
Other elections Tuesday included congressional primaries in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota and South Carolina.
The primaries yielded one upset. In South Carolina’s 7th District, Russell Fry, a state representative backed by former President Donald Trump, defeated five-term Rep. Tom Rice. Mr. Rice is the first Republican incumbent to lose a primary after voting to impeach Mr. Trump.
SEE ALSO: Liz Cheney’s future grows gloomier after Tom Rice’s landslide loss
Another Trump-endorsed candidate, Katie Arrington, lost to incumbent Rep. Nancy Mace in South Carolina’s 1st District.
Mr. Rice lost the support of some conservative Republicans after he voted for the House impeachment that accused Mr. Trump of inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican who is working to drive the former president out of the party and is a member of the House committee investigating the riot, endorsed Mr. Rice.
Mr. Fry’s win was decisive with more than 51% of the vote. Mr. Rice picked up only 25%, prompting Mr. Trump to crow about his defeat on the Truth Social site he created after Twitter banned him last year. Mr. Trump also predicted that Ms. Cheney would suffer a similar fate in her state primary. She is trailing a Trump-backed Republican opponent in early polls.
“Same thing’s going to happen in Wyoming to Virginia ‘resident’ Liz Cheney, that happened to Congressman ‘Impeach Master’ Tom Rice, who lost to an incumbent by 28 points!” Mr. Trump said.
In Texas, Republicans say the Flores victory will be one of three Democratic seats they can flip in South Texas, where voters had not elected a Republican House member in modern history until Mrs. Flores’ win on Tuesday.
Republicans also are targeting the newly carved 15th Congressional District, which stretches from McAllen on the Mexico border north toward San Marcos. The district is now rated as the most likely of the South Texas seats to flip to the Republican Party. Republican Monica De La Cruz will face either Ruben Ramirez or Michelle Vallejo, whose May 24 Democratic runoff race appears headed to a recount.
Republicans believe they also have a chance at winning the 28th Congressional District, which stretches from San Antonio to the U.S.-Mexico border. The seat is held by incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat whose runoff primary with far-left Democrat Jessica Cisneros may also be subject to a recount. The winner will face Republican Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz.
The two seats are among dozens that could fall to Republicans in what analysts predict will be a major wipeout for House Democrats, who are clinging to a razor-slim majority.
Hoping to build momentum for November, Republican groups poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the 34th District special election in a bid to boost the Flores campaign. Those who worked on the outreach effort said Mrs. Flores resonated with Democratic voters who have begun to feel ignored by their party.
The district includes frontline communities coping with illegal immigrants pouring across the border and cities and towns wholly dependent on energy sector jobs that Democrats want to eliminate as part of their climate change agenda.
Mrs. Flores is married to a Border Patrol agent.
The Hispanic political action committee Bienvenido in Action spent $150,000 in the district sending texts, making phone calls and distributing flyers promoting Mrs. Flores, but it was the candidate and her message that made the victory possible, said Abraham Enriquez, who founded Bienvenido in Action.
“You see a community leader like Myra, stepping up and talking about change, talking about economic prosperity, border security,” Mr. Enriquez told The Washington Times. “Those were all issues that people of the 34th District in Texas weren’t hearing from Democrats. And then on top of that, you have the Biden administration and Democrats that control not only the White House, but the House and the Senate, and it’s doing absolutely nothing for the Hispanic community and immigrant community. You get this massive red wave that happened last night.”
Mrs. Mayra will be sworn into Congress immediately to finish the last months of a term vacated by Filemon Vela, a Democrat who left the House to join a lobbying firm.
She is running in November for a full term but will have a tougher challenge competing against Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat who represents the 15th Congressional District. The two will run in the 34th District, which was redrawn to include more Democratic voters.
Austin-based Republican Party strategist Matt Mackowiak said Mrs. Flores’ historic win on Tuesday improves her chances in November.
“It will be a question of how big the wave is in the fall,” Mr. Mackowiak said. “She’s a great candidate, works hard and has an impressive story. Timing is everything in politics.”