McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Immigration hard-liner Monica De La Cruz proved that voters on the South Texas border want change and tougher immigration laws as the Republican beat Democratic opponent Michelle Vallejo on Tuesday to claim Texas’ 15th Congressional border seat in a nationally-watched race.
De La Cruz won 53.4% over 44.8% for Vallejo, according to the Associated Press.
A 538 poll on Monday had the pair in a dead heat, but De La Cruz pulled it out after receiving much support from the Republican National Committee.
Since the start of this campaign, she has been saying that the South Texas border might be Hispanic, but it’s not pro-illegal immigration and it’s not Democratic anymore.
On Tuesday, De La Cruz predicted in a tweet that she would win saying: “Joe Biden is not listening. And neither is my opponent. We are going to win on November 8th because I only answer to you!”
De La Cruz became the first woman and first Republican ever to win the 15th District, the only South Texas district that Republicans won on Tuesday.
Republicans had also targeted Texas’ 28th Congressional District, which was won by longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. And Democratic U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez won Texas’ 34th Congressional District, which includes the Gulf Coast.
“Republicans pumped millions into the race and given the redistricting to make that district Republican,” they didn’t get the wins they expected, Andrew Smith, a political science professor for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley told Border Report.
The win came despite a last-minute push by Democrats who brought former President Bill Clinton to the Rio Grande Valley to try to boost last-minute support for Vallejo.
But it wasn’t enough in this border district where Republicans have focused on conquering this open seat for months.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has sunk millions of dollars into advertising and staffing the 15th District after the Republican-led Texas Legislature redrew the boundaries in 2021 and made it more GOP-leaning.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was among top-ranking Republicans who came to the Rio Grande Valley on Monday to rally support for De La Cruz, as well as two other GOP Latina candidates they called the “Triple Threat.”
De La Cruz was considered the favorite by locals after seeing her campaign signs for two years. She lost to Rep Gonzalez in 2020 by fewer than 7,000 votes. Gonzalez ran Tuesday in Texas’ 34th Congressional District after his McAllen house moved districts under the new district.
De La Cruz was endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council and former President Donald Trump. Throughout her campaign, she openly touted Trump’s tougher immigration policies that restricted asylum-seekers from coming across the border.
She also repeated that more support and resources need to be provided for U.S. Border Patrol agents.
“Border security is the No. 1 issue in our district,” De La Cruz told Border Report during a GOP woman’s border wall tour in Hidalgo, Texas, weeks before the election. “I think that implementing the policies that worked in the previous administration will certainly help.”
Vallejo is a progressive Democrat who was endorsed by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. She advocated for health care for all and said the Border Patrol needed more resources to do their job. But she opposes what she calls the “militarization of the border.”
Neither of the candidates in this race have ever held public office before. Both are small businesswomen who hail from the Rio Grande Valley.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com