Republican Mayra Flores, a respiratory therapist, won Tuesday's special election in Texas' historically Democratic 34th Congressional District and will serve at least through the remainder of the term of Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year to take a job with the Akin Gump lobbying firm. Flores will be the first Mexican-born congresswoman. Dan Sanchez, the leading Democrat in the race, conceded defeat, blaming a lack of support from state and national Democrats.
"We came up short tonight despite being outspent by millions of dollars from out of state interests and the entire Republican machine," Sanchez said. "Too many factors were against us, including little to no support from the National Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee." Flores reported $752,000 in contributions, versus Sanchez's $46,000.
Flores and her allies spent more than $1 million on TV ads in the race, "while national Democrats largely stayed away, arguing it was not worth it to save a seat that will be up again in November — and under new, more favorable boundaries," The Texas Tribune reports. In March, Flores won the GOP nomination for the general election in the newly redrawn 34th District. She will face Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), who did not run in the special election.
Republicans cheered the victory, calling it evidence of their inroads in the heavily Latino Rio Grande Valley. And some analysts agreed. MSNBC columnist Eric Michael Garcia called Flores' win "a political earthquake" and "five alarm fire for Democrats," predicting that South Texas will "be voting like West Virginia" before long. But Cook Political Report election analyst Dave Wasserman was less impressed.
This was "a really low-turnout race as competitive special elections go," so while "a GOP flip of a Biden-won Rio Grande Valley seat would be a huge 'statement' win, I'm not sure how much we can extrapolate it for the fall," Wasserman assessed. The newly drawn 34th District would have voted for President Biden by 15 percentage points, versus 4 points in the current boundaries, he adds, and Cook Political Report continues to rate the November race Lean Democratic.