Rio Grande Valley voters are sending a Republican to represent them in Washington D.C. for the first time in 150 years, as Mayra Flores beat Democrat Dan Sanchez outright in Tuesday night’s TX-34 special election. While Flores will have to run again in November under a more difficult map, her win is a warning shot to Democrats in neighboring districts and nationwide.

“We have officially started the red wave,” said Flores.

Late Tuesday night, the race was called for Mayra Flores, who surpassed the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff, polling at 51% with most precincts reporting. She flipped a district which President Biden won by +4 points in 2020.

Mayra Flores, a Mexican-born immigrant from Burgos, Tamaulipas, Mexico, campaigned hard on a number of conservative priorities, as well as her faith and belief in American exceptionalism. A wife of a border patrol agent, she advocated for fortifying the legal immigration process and securing the southern border. 

“America First policies resonate with the Hispanic community and others who live in this district. For over 100 years, the Democrat Party has taken for granted the loyalty and support South Texas has given them for decades. They do nothing to earn our vote or our support. And meanwhile, President Biden has signed a record number of Executive Orders to kill Texas jobs, weaken border security, and remove protection for the unborn. Enough is enough.”

Flores won in a special election for the open seat in Texas’s 34th Congressional District after Former Rep. Filemon Vela (D) abruptly resigned. However, she will have to run again in November in a race against Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D). Gonzalez currently represents TX-15 in Hidalgo County but has flipped to run for the 34th District and try to replace Vela. And while the win for Mayra Flores is certainly historic, her race in November will be much tougher.

Tuesday’s race was run under the old congressional maps– a map where President Biden won the district in 2020 by +4 points. However, November’s race, following redistricting, will be run under the new maps, and under the new maps, Biden would have won TX-34 by +15 points. In other words, Representative-Elect Mayra Flores has her work cut out for her.

As a result of her win, Flores will get the benefit of running as an incumbent. Her win will also no doubt spur the GOP to spend even more efforts in spending and voter outreach to hold the district. But perhaps the biggest effect is the effect that her win will have in races nationwide, where Republicans are already claiming to have made massive inroads with Hispanic voters.

In neighboring districts TX-15 and TX-28, Republicans have also drafted Latina candidates in Monica De La Cruz and Cassy Garcia, respectively. De La Cruz is seen as one of the best opportunities for a GOP pickup, and Garcia is challenging longtime Democrat Henry Cuellar. Democrats maintain that they will maintain their stronghold in South Texas. But while the GOP was already bullish on their prospects in those two races, Flores’ win will provide only more fuel for those beliefs, as it demonstrates Republicans can win in South Texas and in Hispanic communities.

David Vasquez

David Vasquez is a native of the Rio Grande Valley, where he was born and raised in Weslaco, TX. He attended The University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor's degree in Government and a minor in English. Following graduation in 2019, David returned home and began writing for Texas Scorecard.