McALLEN, Texas – Republicans are targeting Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez in a new U.S. House Congressional plan.
The new map, authored by the chair of the special Senate committee on Redistricting, Sen. Joan Huffman, moves a large number of traditionally Democratic voters in Hidalgo County over to Congressman Filemon Vela’s neighboring district.
This makes Congressional District 34, held by Vela, more Democratic leaning, and Congressional District 15, held by Gonzalez, more Republican leaning.
Under the current plan, Gonzalez splits Alamo, Donna, Weslaco, and Mercedes with Vela. Under the new plan, Vela gets some of Pharr from Gonzalez, and all of Alamo, Donna, Weslaco and Mercedes. Vela also gets a chunk of Edinburg and all of Elsa and La Villa. Gonzalez, D-McAllen, loses these Democratic strongholds and picks up more Republican-friendly areas in the north of his district.
Vela, D-Brownsville, has announced he is retiring at the next election.
As it relates to Gonzalez, the new plan was described this way by The Washington Post:
“The remaining competitive seat is held by Rep. Vicente Gonzalez Jr. (D), whose 15th Congressional District along the Rio Grande Valley would go from being narrowly Democratic to narrowly Republican. Texas Republicans are hoping that former president Donald Trump’s strong performance in the Rio Grande in 2020 creates an opportunity for them to pick up that seat.”
As it relates to Gonzalez, the new plan was described this way by The Texas Tribune:
“The most obvious exception to that is U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who had a surprisingly close finish in 2020. His district, once a safe Democratic seat, now tilts in Republicans’ favor. But instead of a full-blown South Texas GOP offensive targeting two other neighboring Democratic districts, mapmakers bolstered Democratic voters in seats held by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of Brownsville — especially the seat of Vela, who is retiring — at the expense of Gonzalez. His 15th Congressional District flipped from a seat Biden carried to one where Trump would have narrowly won.”
Republicans have been targeting Gonzalez ever since his unexpected poor showing in the 2020 general election. His Republican challenger, Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez came within 7,000 votes, or three percentage points, of flipping Congressional District 15.
Since then, De La Cruz-Hernandez has picked up endorsements from top Republicans in Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and the National Border Patrol Council. As a result, her fundraising totals have shot up.
Commercials for and against Gonzalez have been airing heavily in the Valley for many months.
As first reported in the Rio Grande Guardian, the Republican National Committee is to open an Hispanic Engagement Office in McAllen soon. The RNC has never done this before.
Speaking to the Live Oak County Republicans group in April, De La Garza-Hernandez said: “The DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) has Vicente Gonzalez as the No. 1 most vulnerable candidate and the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) has chosen this as one of three seats it is focused on most right now. This is because of your hard work in 2020. It’s like going from the red-headed stepchild to being Cinderella. We didn’t receive any national help or state help, but now we are the belle of the ball — all eyes are on South Texas. You were the first to jump on the Monica train, and I thank you very much.”
President Trump did better than expected in South Texas in 2020. So much so that he came within two points of defeating Joe Biden in CD 15. Under the new map, Trump would have narrowly won the seat.
Democrats said they would hold a post mortem on why Trump so well and then put more resources into the region. That has not happened, said Mari Regalado, former chair of Texas Democratic Women.
“The state’s Democratic Party said it was going to have a post mortem on why we did not do as well as expected in 2020. We thought that coming out of that we would see a significant increase in resources in the Valley. There is no sign of that,” Regalado said.