Last week, the Texas House passed its new district map as part of its redistricting efforts. The map includes a newly redrawn House District 37—a last-minute amendment that tilts the longtime Democrat stronghold toward the GOP. 

Thursday afternoon, Janie Lopez, vice president of the San Benito CISD school board, became the first Republican to announce her candidacy for the nomination. Her campaign calls her a “strong candidate who will ensure conservative values win[.]”

“I am excited for this new opportunity to serve Willacy and Cameron County families. We must work to lower the cost of living, secure our border, properly fund schools and school services, protect life in the womb, stop the dangerous defunding of police, stop human trafficking, and defend the constitutional rights of Texans,” said Lopez.

Under the new map, HD 37 combines all of Willacy County with most of Cameron County, including Harlingen and extending to South Padre Island, while carving out most of Brownsville. While Joe Biden still would have carried the new district in 2020, it swings from a Biden +16 district to a Biden +2 district. The result is a district immensely more competitive for Republicans in a region long dominated by Democrats.

Janie Lopez is a Rio Grande Valley native whose campaign calls her a “fiscal watchdog and a tireless advocate for students, teachers, and parents.” At a September board meeting to discuss the proposed tax rate, Lopez pointed out that although the school district was not increasing the tax rate for 2021-2022, it had not actually decreased the tax rate in at least eight years. While San Benito CISD stated that it was keeping the same tax rate, the average San Benito resident will still face an increased tax burden of $19.03 because of rising property values. Though the tax rate was approved, Lopez stated she would recommend that San Benito CISD lower the tax rate next year to account for rising property valuations. 

Notably, Lopez was the only San Benito CISD school board member who did not vote for mandating masks on school children and teachers.

Her press release and discernible record as a school board member provide a stark contrast to what the district is used to. Democrat State Rep. Alex Dominguez (Brownsville), who fled Austin in the widely publicized quorum bust this summer, previously voted in the 87th Legislative Session against banning critical race theory in public schools, against banning abortion once a baby’s heartbeat has been detected, and against the constitutional carry of firearms.

While Lopez is the first Republican to announce her candidacy, uncertainty shrouds the Democrat primary. Dominguez, HD 37’s current representative, has been redrawn into the new HD 38 in Brownsville, a solidly blue district. It is also heavily rumored that Dominguez will be seeking a run for Congress to fill U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela’s (D–Brownsville) open seat.