ZAPATA, Texas – Republicans in Zapata County are so buoyed by the local results of the presidential election race they plan to start a GOP party.
President Trump shocked political observers by winning in the sparsely populated border county by 2,032 votes, or 52.2 percent, to 1,820 votes, or 47.1 percent, for Joe Biden.
“I was surprised. I knew we were going to have higher numbers than we have had in the past, but I did not expect the win. I was pleasantly surprised. It was exciting,” said Anna Holcomb, a Latina and Zapata County Republican who was featured in a New York Times article about the result.
“We are so excited we are trying to start a Republican Party here. We do not have one. We have called the Republican Party and they are going to come and meet with us to tell us what we need to do in order to recruit people and make this party grow and be strong.”
While Zapata County went with a Republican for president for the first time ever, other GOP candidates on the 2020 ballot did not fare as well. U.S. Senator John Cornyn did not win a majority and the Republican candidates seeking to unseat popular local elected officials like state Sen. Judith Zaffirini and state Rep. Ryan Guillen came up short.
Holcomb said she believes she knows why Trump succeeded and other Republicans did not.
“A lot of it was the economy. Mr. Biden’s comments on banning fracking probably did shave some of the votes. Our second amendment, taking our guns, most people around here like to hunt. And of course our religious values. It just seems that, little by little, our Christian values are less important than somebody else’s. Removing the word God from our pledge of allegiance, it is affecting a lot of people.”
In the primary, Biden said he would ban fracking. During the general election he said he would not. In the last president debate, Biden said if elected his administration would “transition away from oil.”
Holcomb said that remark cost Biden votes in Zapata because the county has a lot of people that work in the oil industry.
“Transition away from oil? I think it had an impact. The people that were already supporting Trump were able to say to other people, their family and friends, ‘hey, see I told you it was their plan.’ I think most people had already made up their minds,” Holcomb said.
“The pandemic has affected a lot of people. A lot of people have lost their jobs in the oil industry. It is taking away your hope when you hear the president-elect say, we are going to transition away from what you have known all your life.”
Holcomb has been involved in the oil and gas industry her entire life. Her late father ran an oil services company and she worked for him for a while. And she has worked as an administrative assistant for Conoco and Chevron-Texaco. Her husband works as the superintendent of an oil rig offshore from Louisiana and her brother works in the oil industry in New Mexico.
“It affects every aspect of our little community. You either work for the county or the school or there are some small businesses but they all depend on the oil industry,” Holcomb said.
Asked if abortion was a key issue in the election in Zapata County, Holcomb said: “Here in Zapata a lot of people are Catholics. And most people are pro-life. Some believe, my body, my choice. I don’t think it is as big an issue as the right to prayer.”
Holcomb pointed out that she is a registered Democrat. She said she has to be because in the primary elections it is the only game in town.
“We are all registered Democrats because everyone runs on the Democratic ticket. So we have to vote in the Democratic Party primary. But I have voted Republican in almost every presidential election since I was old enough to vote, in 1984. They are more in line with my values, I guess.”
Asked why other Republicans on the ballot did not fare as well as the president, Holcomb said: “A lot of people were voting for Trump. People did not realize he also needs senators and congress people. The president needs support from more of the Republican Party. President Trump is a larger than life character. But, I think this was a movement and I think it is more than our larger than life president. I think there is going to be change in our county in the future.”
During the 2020 election, Holcomb confessed she got excited by the momentum of the Trump campaign. As in other parts of South Texas border region, a phenomenon known as the Trump Train began to emerge. Supporters would gather in their cars and trucks and drive around town with Trump and USA flags waving and horns honking.
“We had 85 on the Zapata Trump Train. Only three of the cars came from Laredo, the rest from Zapata. It was amazing. We put it together at very short noice. With more notice we could have turned out more cars. But it was good. We really enjoyed it.”
The Trump Trains woke up the Democratic Party establishment, Holcomb said.
“The Democrats felt threatened and so they created their own. They had about 78 cars and trucks. It was about equal as far as the parade went. But, we raised enough money to put up a Trump billboard here in Zapata and two in south Laredo.
Holcomb said she cannot remember any signs for a Republican presidential candidate being erected in Zapata County before. All that changed in 2020.
“There may have been some in previous elections but I don’t remember. This time, we made his presence known.”
As a result of being active during the election, Holcomb made friends with Republicans in the Rio Grande Valley. She is keen to know how things went in the Valley.
Trump did better in the traditionally Democrat Valley, securing more than 40 percent. In 2012, Republicans secured 29.6 percent of the vote in the Valley. In 2016, it was 28.91 percent. And in 2020, it was 41.96 percent.
“I really think the conservative values of the Hispanic people on the border are not going to change,” Holcomb said. “The Democratic Party has changed to very liberal. I think that is why we have a movement, right now, towards the Republicans, because of those conservative values.”
Holcomb said she does not believe Trump’s success in Zapata County is going to be a high-water mark.
“I do not think this is the end. I think this is the beginning. It is going to grow. I worked with some people in the RGV and we intend to keep in touch with them. We are going to work together and hopefully flip more counties,” Holcomb said.
“Who knows, maybe President Trump will run again in 2024. We will see.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Anna Holcomb, left, Jack Moore, center, and Yvette Gutierrez De Leon. All are supporters of President Trump in the town of Zapata. (Photo credit: Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times)
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