Republican Mayra Flores won Tuesday’s special election for the 34th Congressional District in Texas, flipping a House seat that has been held by Democrats for a century and foreshadowing a red wave for the GOP in the November election.
Mrs. Flores, a former Hidalgo County GOP Hispanic Outreach chair, defeated Democratic opponent and Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez as well as two other candidates.
She will immediately fill a seat vacated by Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat who left the House to join a lobbying firm.
As of early Tuesday morning, Mrs. Flores had captured 51% of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff. Mr. Sanchez won 43.3%. Democrat Rene Coronado and Republican Juana Cantu-Cabrera had garnered single-digit support.
“This historic win will bring back God to the halls of Congress!” Mrs. Flores said in a statement late Tuesday. “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’ victory comes after Republicans and outside groups poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into boosting her campaign. Democrats dumped money into the race at the last minute to help Mr. Sanchez, but it wasn’t enough.
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The GOP win is the first of several seats the party hopes to flip in the Rio Grande Valley, where no Republican has been elected in modern history.
The 34th District stretches down the south and southeast part of Texas from Corpus Christi to Brownsville.
Republicans are hoping voter anger over the state of the economy and disapproval of the Biden administration will help them win other seats and gain a foothold in South Texas.
Mrs. Flores’ term will last until January, unless she is able to win a full term in November, when she faces off against a more formidable opponent, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez Jr., a Democrat who now represents the 15th Congressional District.
The November race will take place in a much tougher political climate for Republicans.
The state has redrawn congressional districts, and the new lines will apply in November. The redrawn map adds Democratic voters to the district, which will make it harder for Mrs. Flores to win.
For now, she’ll boost the GOP numbers in the House by one vote, but the Democrats will maintain their five-seat majority.