McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Several Democratic and Republican candidates are vying for their party’s nomination for an open congressional seat that was drastically affected by redistricting by the Texas Legislature last year.

Monica De La Cruz is heavily favored in a field of nine Republicans in Tuesday’s primary for Texas’ 15th Congressional District. The Republican candidates include De La Cruz, Jose Aizar Cavazos, Sara Canady, Vangela Churchill, Mauro Garza, Angela Juarez, Ryan Krause, John Lerma, Steve Schmuker Jr.

De La Cruz narrowly lost to Democrat Vicente Gonzalez during the 2020 general election, but he has since decided to run in a neighboring district this election due to redistricting that changed his home’s political boundaries to District 34.

Six Democrats are bidding for the Democratic party nomination in District 15, as well, trying to seize the Democratic seat left open by Gonzalez. They are Eliza Alvarado, Julio Garza, Ruben Ramirez, Vanessa Tijerina, Michelle Vallejo, and John Villarreal Rigney.

Libertarian Ross Lynn Leone is also running.

The redistricting has been called into question by several organizations that claim the newly drawn District 15 adds Republican voters and dilutes the Democratic Party on the South Texas border with Mexico — an area that has long been a Democratic stronghold.

The Texas Legislature during the 3rd Special Session in 2021 redrew the congressional districts for District 15 and 34. The new boundaries are seen above. (Graphic by the Texas Legislature)

District 15 now encompasses several conservative counties north of Hidalgo, including Jim Wells and Live Oak and Karnes counties, and spans vertically from the Mexico border to northeast of San Antonio.

Natasha Altema McNeely, an associate professor of political science at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, said the area is seeing an increase in young conservative voters, as well as young progressive voters, and that could drive Tuesday’s primary elections.

“The young people, young millennials if you will, they are very politically active so you do see what appears to be a growing contingent of young progressives here in the Valley. However, there also tends to be a growing contingent of growing conservatives,” McNeely said. “The young people here in the Valley appear to be more politically driven and could be the deciding factor for politics here.”

The Republican National Committee and several conservative organizations are backing De La Cruz. This includes former President Donald Trump, and the Tea Party Express, which Monday announced was endorsing the small businesswoman from Edinburg. De La Cruz also has the endorsements of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy; the Republican National Hispanic Assembly; Texas Right to Life; and the National Border Patrol Council, according to her campaign website.

The Texas Tribune reports that District 15 “could be the state’s only competitive congressional seat in November thanks to redistricting.”

De La Cruz believes migrants should “legally immigrate” like her grandmother did, according to a TV campaign ad. She’s also tough on border security and believes in the “Remain in Mexico” policy, finishing the border wall and ending humanitarian parole of migrants who are allowed to wait in the United States during their asylum proceedings.

However, Garza, who owns a nightclub in San Antonio, has been running ads that say De La Cruz is not conservative enough and he is airing an ad that repeated a false conspiracy theory about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to PolitiFact.

“They call it an insurrection. But what really happened January 6th? Were FBI agents used as political agitators?” according to the TV ad the Garza campaign is running.

De La Cruz told Border Report in October that she believes the new district boundaries more accurately reflect growing conservativism in South Texas.

“I am excited about the 2022 election. We ran a great race in 2020 and we’re running a great race now and the redistricting is exciting for us in Texas 15,” she said. “We are running a great race and we’re going to win in 2022.”

“District 15 has conservative values and my campaign is running a conservative campaign and I think that’s why we resonated in 2020 and we saw the district swing 18% and close the gap to just 2.8% and really essentially scared the incumbent into District 34 because he knows that we have the right message for our district and are truly reflecting what their values are.”

De La Cruz lost to Gonzalez in 2020 by just 6,500 votes.

“She’s drawn the attention and the endorsements of very high-ranking Republicans because she came pretty close to beating Rep. Gonzalez a few years ago and around that time and since then the Republican National Committee had made it clear that they were going to be focusing on these races here in South Texas,” McNeely said.

Danny Diaz, director of LUPE Votes, told Border Report on Monday that Vallejo most aligns with the values and needs of low-income workers in South Texas, a platform his organization calls We The Pueblo. And he said his organization is working to keep District 15 Democratic in what he calls “a crossroads moment.”

“We saw politicians, especially right-wing were really trying to target South Texas and turn South Texas red,” he said.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at