MCALLEN, Texas – U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez’s north McAllen home has been taken out of the congressional district he represents and moved into a neighboring one to the east by Republican map drawers.
The McAllen Democrat currently represents Congressional District 15, anchored in Hidalgo County. But under a new congressional plan approved by the GOP-dominated Texas Legislature, CD 15 is now an open seat.
The new map would make Gonzalez the incumbent in Congressional District 34 at the next election. That seat is anchored in Cameron County. Its current representative, Congressman Filemon Vela has announced he is retiring at the next election.
The new congressional plan is awaiting Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature.
Republican map drawers were able to move Gonzalez’s home from CD 15 to CD 34 by adding a slither of McAllen to CD 34. About 10,000 McAllen residents have been moved to CD 34. As it relates to McAllen, the boundary of new map goes west along Dove Avenue, south on 2nd Street, east along Violet Avenue, south along McColl, and then east at Nolana. All those inside this block join part of Pharr and all of San Juan, Alamo, Donna, Weslaco, Mercedes and the Delta area in CD 34.
Thus, the map has literally taken thousands of constituents out of CD 15 and moved them into CD 34.
There is a political dimension to the map drawing. Those Hidalgo County residents now moved to CD 34 vote Democrat at a higher percentage than those left in CD 15. So, CD 15 becomes more Republican friendly while CD 34 becomes more Democratic. Indeed, if the 2020 presidential election were held in the new-look CD 15, President Trump would have won by 2.89 percentage points. The percentage of Hispanic voting age population in CD 15 drops from 79 percent to 72 percent.
The new map places about 300,000 Hidalgo County residents in CD 34. There are about 421,000 Cameron County residents in the district. CD 34 also includes Willacy, Kenedy and Kleberg counties.
Congressman Gonzalez told the Rio Grande Guardian he would not issue a statement about the new map until Gov. Abbott has signed it into law. However, there is heavy speculation that he would run in the district he has been drawn into. In fact, retiring Congressman Vela has already endorsed Gonzalez for CD 34.
The new congressional plan also takes U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar out of Hidalgo County. Instead, the Laredo Democrat picks up Jim Hogg and Duval counties, plus more of San Antonio. Cuellar’s district becomes more heavily Democratic.
The Republican candidate for CD 15 in 2020, Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez says she is running again in 2022.
“I ran a great race in 2020 and I am running a great race right now. It does not matter to me if Vicente Gonzalez is in Texas 15 or in Texas 34. We are going to win and we are excited about that,” De La Cruz-Hernandez said.
“I have proven it does not matter how the lines are drawn. I ran in a D Plus-20 district in 2020 and swung the district 18 percent. What matters to the people here in this district is we put Americans first and American policies first.”
Asked if running in an “open seat” would help her chances, in a district that would have gone narrowly for Trump in 2020, De La Cruz-Hernandez said: “We are focused on our campaign. It does not matter if it is open or not or who runs against me on the Democratic ticket. We will be successful and win in 2022.”
De La Cruz-Hernandez said border security is her top issue and the one resonating most with voters in the district. She said her campaign is getting national attention.
“The work we did in 2020, we are seeing the fruits of that labor. We are getting national, state and local support like never before. (U.S. House Minority) Leader McCarthy has endorsed me. Congressman Dan Crenshaw has endorsed me. In fact, the entire Texas Republican congressional delegation has endorsed me.”
Even though it could be argued that Congressman Gonzalez has been “pushed” into CD 34, De La Cruz-Hernandez insists he “jumped.” She said: “Vicente Gonzalez he is jumping to 34. That shows he never really cared about the constituents of Texas 15. I think what he cares about is the power and only being focused on himself.”
While De La Cruz-Hernandez is happy with the outcome of the congressional redistricting process, another GOP candidate from South Texas is not. Mayra Flores, a native of San Benito who now lives in Hidalgo County, says she is running for CD 34.
Flores went to Austin to testify before a Senate redistricting committee against the new map because it “packed” more Democrats into CD 34.
“As soon as I announced, Filemon Vela announced he was not running for re-election. I believe it was because of my announcement. I truly do,” Flores said.
“My story resonates with the people of South Texas. I was born in Mexico, came to the United States, was a migrant farm worker. My parents were migrant farm workers. The importance of hard work was instilled into us at an early age. I did not want to work in the cotton fields for the rest of my life.”
Flores said too many people in South Texas do not understand what the Republican Party’s platform is all about. “They vote Democrat because that is what they have always done and have been told to do.”
Flores said she told the Texas Senate redistricting committee not to mess with CD 34. She said that in 2020 President Trump came within three points of winning CD 34. Now, she said, the chances of GOP success has been made much harder.
“We don’t want nothing to be given to us. We don’t want a seat to be given to us. We just want equal representation and a fair chance to win,” Flores said.
“We should not make it easier for a Democrat to be elected. We all need a fair chance. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat you should earn your seat. No seat should be given to you. We love a challenge, we know how to work hard in South Texas.”
Flores said she still intends to run, despite the district being “packed” with more Democratic voters from Hidalgo County.
“Trump lost be three percent. That is when I saw the potential. If they can vote for Trump they can vote for Flores,” she said. “They have moved the ‘Red’ counties from the upper part of the district. So, now I am just going to have to work harder. But, we are going to win no matter what.”
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