McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Redistricting by the Republican-led Texas Legislature diluted and “weakened” the Hispanic vote, especially in South Texas where two Latinas faced off to become the first woman ever to represent a border district, a pair of nonpartisan civil rights organizations say.
Tuesday night’s winner, Monica De La Cruz, also became the first Republican ever elected to represent Texas’ 15th Congressional District, which spans from the Texas-Mexico border to south of San Antonio.
She beat Democratic challenger Michelle Vallejo, who led a low-funded grassroots campaign in what analysts said was a David vs. Goliath fight because the Republican National Committee sunk millions of dollars into advertising for De La Cruz.
Lydia Camarillo, president of the San Antonio-based Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, said Wednesday that the way the Republican-led Legislature redrew the 15th District diluted the Hispanic vote by including northern counties and areas that are less Hispanic and predominantly Republican, adding that gerrymandering gave the GOP the win.
“CD-15 won by Republicans was weakened by Texas’ unconstitutional redistricting efforts,” Camarillo said Wednesday during a Facebook live event with LULAC organizers.
Unofficial results from the Texas Secretary of State show that District 15 voters in the border county of Hidalgo voted in favor of Vallejo. She won Hidalgo County, the only border county in that district, by more than 11,700 votes. Vallejo also won the next county to the north, Brooks County, with 60 percent of the vote.
Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latino Voters (LULAC) says his nonprofit organization does not endorse candidates, but they do watch all races nationwide to make sure that every vote counts.
“We don’t take sides in the election but we do want to make sure that everyone is counted and every vote has the opportunity to make a difference for the candidate of your choice, especially for Latino voters,” Garcia said.
LULAC and the Southwest Voter Registration Project along with eight other organizations in 2021 filed a lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott alleging that the redistricting was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The lawsuit contends that the new district lines “illegally and unconstitutionally dilute the voting strength of Latino voters in Texas.”
After redistricting, white voters make up 23 percent of the electorate in the current District 15, up from 21 percent in the previous district boundary lines, the head of the Lone Star Project told the Rio Grande Guardian on Wednesday.
Texas’ 34th Congressional District, on the Gulf Coast, also was redrawn forcing the incumbent congressman from District 15 to run in 34.
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat, beat incumbent U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores, a Republican, on Tuesday night to become the new representative for the newly drawn 34th District.
The border district of Texas’ 28th Congressional District also was redrawn by the Legislature and longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, held his seat there against a political newcomer.
In a statement after she was declared the winner of District 15, De La Cruz said: “In Washington, I will fight for all South Texans — be they black, white Latino, or Asian; Republicans or Democrats; gay or straight. Estamos unidos and together we will form a more perfect union to renew the promise of America for the next generation.”
Republican National Committee Spokeswoman Macarena Martinez said following the elections: “To Governor Greg Abbott, Monica De La Cruz, Wesley Hunt, and all of our Republican candidates on their hard-earned victories tonight. The RNC made a concerted effort in Texas to meet voters where they are, and the results showed up tonight. Voters sent a clear message in the Lone Star State: they want to keep Texas red, keep Texas prosperous, and reject the failed progressive policies of Joe Biden and the Democrat Party.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com