Ideological Battleground Shapes Up in South Texas Congressional Race

Ideological Battleground Shapes Up in South Texas Congressional Race

Congressional candidate Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas) believes the stark difference between her traditional values and the left-wing values of her progressive opponent will be what flips South Texas District 15 red come November.

De La Cruz faces Michelle Vallejo (D-Texas) in a Congressional district that is heavily Hispanic and traditionally votes blue. Both candidates run small businesses in the South Texas district neighboring the Mexican border.

That is where the similarities between the two end.

De La Cruz of Edinburg, Texas, was raised by a single mother and put herself through the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is a pro-life candidate who believes America is a country built on faith and family. She wants a return to former President Donald Trump’s border policies to stop illegal immigration and reverse the Democratic policies she attributes to soaring inflation.

Vallejo, of Mission, Texas, attended Columbia University and says she wants to make South Texas more “equitable.” Her biography says she comes from a family of farm workers and that she wants to represent the working class. She believes in keeping abortion legal, offering “rights and opportunities” to illegal immigrants, eliminating fossil fuels in favor of “green energy,” and championing LGBTQ+ rights. Her platform seeks to expand social programs such as “Medicare for All.”

“My opponent Michelle Vallejo, highlighting her radical progressive agenda, will further show the divide between the Democrats and the Republicans,” De La Cruz told The Epoch Times.

Monica De La Cruz, (R-Texas) believes her progressive opponent’s radical views will not sit well with traditional Hispanic voters. (Photo courtesy of Monica De La Cruz)

Vallejo, endorsed by left-wing progressives such as Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), became her party’s District 15 nominee after defeating moderate Democrat Ruben Ramirez by 35 votes during the primary.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a moderate Democrat currently representing District 15, is switching to run in District 34. The Republican-dominated Texas Legislature redrew the South Texas voter map, moving his McAllen home from District 15 into District 34.

De La Cruz did well when she ran against Gonzalez, the incumbent, in 2020 for the District 15 seat, losing to Gonzalez by 6,588 votes.

This time, Gonzales will face Republican Mayra Flores of District 34—a rare matchup between a sitting congressman and new congresswoman. Flores is a legal immigrant from Mexico who is married to a border patrol agent. During a special election last month, she made history as the first Republican to win the South Texas district in more than 100 years, bolstering the Republican belief they can flip deep-blue South Texas.

Less Government Intervention

De La Cruz, who claims endorsements from Trump and GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), said that inflation hurts individuals and small businesses, and leads to tough choices. The increasing costs have forced small business owners like herself to lay off workers. Many of the residents in her district are below the median income level, so just buying food and a tank of gas is a struggle.

Her opponents’ green energy policies stand to cripple the Texas oil industry, exasperate gas prices and eliminate jobs, De La Cruz said. District 15 includes the Eagle Ford Shale field, an oil and gas field that stretches from the Mexican border to East Texas. It provides billions of dollars to the South Texas economy and tens of thousands of jobs.

A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, on June 9, 2016. (Richard Carson/Reuters)

According to her platform, Vallejo wants to transition oil workers into a green “jobs guarantee” program with housing, health care, and training assurances. She advocates taxing the rich to pay for “free” programs. Her platform aligns with Democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

De La Cruz said securing the border is the other big issue for South Texans. She said President Joe Biden doesn’t control the border—the Mexican cartel does. She pointed to the deadly consequences of open border policies. Last month, 53 illegal immigrants died near San Antonio, Texas, trapped in a tractor-trailer with no air conditioning. Others are transported all over the country with no reliable way of locating them once they are released, she added.

“Thousands upon thousands of illegal immigrants are walking through the border. That affects our national security. That affects our American communities’ security. We aren’t tracking them.”

illegal immigrants
The alleged driver of a truck carrying dozens of illegal immigrants, identified by Mexican immigration officials as “Homero N”, drives through a security checkpoint in this surveillance photograph in Laredo, Texas, on June 29, 2022. (National Institute of Migration/Handout via Reuters)

Hispanics ‘Already Conservatives’

De La Cruz said that once Hispanics recognize that Republican values are traditional values, which include faith, hard work, and love for America, they will leave the Democratic party—a trend that began in 2020.

“Hispanics are already conservatives. I think this is an opportunity to bring up the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans,” she said.

Toni Anne Dashiell, a Republican National Committee chairwoman, told delegates at the Texas GOP convention that the party is investing heavily in South Texas. She said Texas is home to five RNC Community Centers, where different events are held. That outreach has produced volunteers to get the word out about Republican values. Republicans have invested in door-knocking campaigns, television, and digital ads.

De La Cruz said the National Republican Congressional Committee made an initial investment of $2.2 million in the Rio Grande Valley, covering Texas Districts 15, 34, and 28. They also committed another $688,000 in the San Antonio area, including Districts 15 and 28. Latina Republicans are running to flip all three Congressional seats, which could hand control of the U.S. House of Representatives back to the GOP.

“This is a historic time in American politics, and we will be talking about this movement in the Republican Party and American politics for years to come,” De La Cruz said.

The latest federal campaign finance reports show De La Cruz brought in almost $2 million more than Vallejo’s $391,000 and spent seven times more than her opponent.

Dems Look to November

Critics within the Democratic Party said South Texas shouldn’t be taken for granted. They pointed to a lack of support in the special election for Texas District 35, which resulted in a red win for Flores.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case for the midterms. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement that Vallejo had been added to the Red-to-Blue program, which arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support.

DCCC Chair Sean Patrick vowed to help Vallejo hit the ground running in order to keep the seat in Democratic hands. The Democrats praised Vallejo as the candidate South Texas needs to fight for her district, despite its history of producing conservative Democrats.

“Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, she understands the experiences of South Texas families who have worked hard for what they have because she’s lived it,” DCCC Spokesperson Monica Robinson said in a statement.

Email messages and calls to Vallejo and her campaign for an interview were not returned.

Darlene McCormick Sanchez


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