October 1, 2022
A group of House Democrats isn't exactly giving a warm welcome to Republican Rep.-elect Mayra Flores.

A group of House Democrats isn’t exactly giving a warm welcome to Republican Rep.-elect Mayra Flores.

The South Texas conservative activist won a special election this week for an open Rio Grande Valley House district. The 34th Congressional District special election win has spurred Republican hopes of winning more majority Latino seats in November. South Texas is a longtime Democratic bastion, and Flores’s victory, combined with competitive races in neighboring districts, suggests the party’s dominance there is fading away.

Flores’s flip specifically frustrated some House Democrats, and their frustrations played out on social media after Flores posted an inaccurate tweet.

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Flores wrote, “I am the first Mexican Born American Citizen to be elected into Congress.” But the claim is not accurate. There are several lawmakers currently in Congress who were born in Mexico, though they are all men — Reps. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), and Raul Ruiz (D-CA). Flores will be the first Mexican-born woman elected to Congress, but not the first Mexican-born citizen, as she claimed.

Latino House Democrats took issue with the claim, including Reps. Garcia and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Flores did not remove her inaccurate tweet but claimed she was facing attacks from the “far left” because her ancestry does not “fit their narrative.”

The social media feuding comes as Democrats, particularly Latino Democrats in the House, are dismayed by the loss of the seat as they seek to maintain their House majority this year. House Republicans need to net five seats in the 435-member chamber to claim the majority for the first time in four years.

In a Politico report, some Democrats pointed to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its allies, which spent a small sum on the race in its waning days rather than getting involved earlier, as some members had pushed for.

“I hope the DCCC learns their lesson with this before it happens across the country,” Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) said. Gonzalez will run against Flores in the fall in the 34th Congressional District, which was reconfigured in the redistricting process. Gonzalez currently represents a neighboring Rio Grande Valley district, but the new one, which goes into existence when the new Congress is seated on Jan. 3, 2023, is more favorable to Democrats.

Nonetheless, Gonzalez expressed his displeasure at Democratic campaign tactics in the region, or lack thereof.

“They have just forgotten about the brown people on the border,” Gonzalez said. “And that’s basically what it is. I’m not going to try to sugarcoat it anymore. They are taking Latinos in South Texas for granted.”

One notable aspect of Flores’s win is that she will be the first Republican to represent the Rio Grande Valley in Congress since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.

Republicans argued that the victory is part of a wider trend in the region, where for several election cycles the party has made inroads in areas that have been reliably Democratic for decades.

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Flores won an all-party primary to replace former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year for a job at a Washington, D.C., law and lobbying firm. The historically Democratic 34th Congressional District stretches from the U.S.-Mexico border at Brownsville, Texas, north for hundreds of miles.

Meanwhile, the campaign manager of Flores’s vanquished special election opponent, Dan Sanchez, ripped Democratic campaign organizations for not putting more resources into the race.

“The DCCC, DNC, and other associated national committees have failed at their single purpose of existence: winning elections,” Collin Steele, Sanchez’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “The loss in TX34 was a complete and total abdication of duty.”

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