AUSTIN, Texas – Six House of Representatives seats in South Texas currently held by Democrats are being targeted for flipping by a Republican group in 2022.
The seats are: District 74, represented by state Rep. Eddie Morales of Eagle Pass; District 31, represented by state Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City; District 41, represented by state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen; District 38, represented by state Rep. Eddie Lucio, III; of San Benito, District 37, represented by state Rep. Alex Dominguez of Brownsville; and District 34, represented by state Rep. Abel Herrero of Robstown.
The group looking to turf out the incumbents is the Associated Republicans of Texas (ART), along with its offshoot, the Hispanic Voter Network (HVN).
“Over the last few cycles Democrats have seen their margins narrow in South Texas up and down the ballot,” said Aaron De Leon, political director of ART.
“Gone are the days of one-party dominance in South Texas. The anti-border security, anti-police and anti-business policies coming out of the Democrat Party today are in direct conflict with the values of South Texas voters.”
De Leon said ART plans to build on the group’s past successes and help recruit, train and fund quality Republican challenger candidates in State House districts along the border.
“We look forward to recruiting and funding strong candidates in the region and expanding the map for Republicans in 2022,” De Leon added.
ART is a nonprofit organization committed to growing the Republican majority in the Texas Legislature and strengthening the future of Republicans in Texas. HVN is an extension of ART’s mission focused on Hispanic voters and candidates. De Leon said HVN works with business leaders, elected officials and community volunteers to identify Hispanic candidates for the State House and to increase Hispanic voter turnout in support of pro-business, conservative, Republican candidates.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, a South Texas native, dismissed ART/HVN’s chances of success along the Texas-Mexico border. Hinojosa was born and raised in Mission and served as Cameron County judge.
“They (ART/HVN) can target whomever they want to target. We targeted the nine districts we needed to flip the House in 2020 and we only flipped one of them. It really didn’t make any difference that they were targeted. What made a difference was who was able to get enough the votes out to win the election,” Hinojosa said.
“Look, those are districts that are pretty solid Democrat, with the exception, probably, of Bobby Guerra’s district, even though that district is majority Democratic. I think the Republican Party has a hard road to hoe to flip any of those districts, period.”
Hinojosa said Republicans are likely relying on a couple of factors that were in play in 2020 but probably will not be in 2022.
“The first one is, the fact that Donald Trump did better than anyone expected him to do in the election of 2020,” Hinojosa said. “There is no question he did better than was expected. The reason that happened to a large extent is because, during one of the the debates, Joe Biden said he was going to get rid of fossil fuels and the fossil fuels industry. That affected a lot of people in South Texas.”
Hinojosa was quick to point out that President Trump did not win in South Texas, with the exception of a few small counties like Zapata County. “Joe Biden won down here,” he said.
Hinojosa said a lot of workers from the South Texas border region go to work on the oil fields and the fracking fields of West Texas. “A lot of people survive on the fossil fuels. They were afraid of losing their jobs,” Hinojosa said.
Another factor, Hinojosa said, was rhetoric about Democrats defunding the police.
“That caused a lot of concern for families in South Texas. A lot of families have jobs in law enforcement. In the Rio Grande Valley there are probably over 10,000 Border Patrol agents. Everybody is related to somebody in law enforcement,” Hinojosa said.
“When they heard that, a lot of people were turned off by that. They thought this was a Democratic Party position. It was not. We support the law enforcement community. We support law enforcement. We do not believe in defunding police departments.”
That said, Democrats will not be taking South Texas for granted, Hinojosa said.
“We are not going to take South Texas for granted. We know that we have got to spend resources down here and organize and mobilize and register people, so we can increase the number of Democrats that are running,” Hinojosa said.
“There is no question that the turnout in South Texas in the general election is not what it should be and there needs to be a lot of work done on that. And there needs to be a lot of resources.”
Hinojosa acknowledged that the Biden campaign did not put any money into South Texas during the 2020 presidential campaign.
“We kept telling them that we thought it was important for them to do that. But, they put hardly any money into Texas, period, to be honest with you, even though we were a battleground state and even though, at the end of the day, we came within five percentage points of winning Texas – the closest we have got since Jimmy Carter done Texas a long time ago,” Hinojosa said.
“We did not have the resources to get out the vote down here. We depended on local resources and in some areas that just did not materialize, Hidalgo County being the best example.”
Mari Regalado is a former president of Texas Democratic Women who lives in Hidalgo County. She said she has invited Hinojosa to an upcoming Hidalgo County Democratic Women meeting to talk about the Texas Democratic Party’s strategy for the 2022 election cycle.
“We want to hear from Gilberto. We want to know what the strategy is. Nobody can articulate our message as well he can, in English or Spanish. Nobody can speak with compassion for our region like he can,” Regalado said.
Regalado said Democrats cannot take South Texas for granted.
“We’ve been told the state party had a post mortem on went wrong in 2020 and that coming out of that, more resources would be allocated to South Texas to improve our chances of victory in 2022. We have not seen any additional resources yet,” Regalado said.
Regalado said she is concerned that the Democratic Party in Washington, D.C. and Austin will take her region of Texas for granted.
“I am concerned. I am very concerned. I can see the amount of phone banking and block walking the Republicans are doing down here. I can see the constant attack ads on TV targeting Congressman Vicente Gonzalez. We have got to raise our visibility and work hard to keep South Texas blue. I don’t want Hidalgo County to end up like Cameron County.”
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