Republican Mayra Flores, a first-time candidate for elected office, won the special election in Texas’ 34th District to complete the term of former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned in March.
With more than 70% of votes counted, Flores held 51% support, and Democrat Dan Sanchez garnered 43.5%. Despite the presence of two other candidates on the ballot, one Democrat and one Republican, Flores was able to avoid a run-off. Several elections analysts called the race shortly after 10:00 p.m. (eastern time).
I’ve seen enough: Mayra Flores (R) defeats Dan Sanchez (D) in the #TX34 special election, flipping an 84% Hispanic Rio Grande Valley seat red.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) June 15, 2022
The special election was spurred on by Vela’s resignation on March 31. The five-term moderate had announced in March 2021 that he would not seek re-election in 2022, and left the lower chamber on March 31 to take a job at the Washington, DC-based corporate law firm Akin Gump.
Vela won re-election by 13.6% in 2020, and Joe Biden won the district by four points. (RELATED: Special Election Could Give GOP A Chance To Prove Gains With Hispanics)
Flores, who received endorsements from House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, won the primary on March 1 to run in November’s general election against Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez. Gonzalez will attempt to switch districts from the 15th, which was redistricted into a toss-up seat. That new 34th District will lean 17 points towards the Democrats, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Elected Democrats and party strategists have repeatedly expressed concern that Hispanic and Latino voters are swinging towards the Republican Party. Biden’s approval rating with Hispanic and Latino voters sits in the mid-20s, several recent polls have shown, the worst of any ethnic group. The 34th District is 85% Hispanic, the U.S. Census found in 2020, one of the most Hispanic congressional seats in the country.
The Republican National Committee and GOP members of Congress have expanded outreach in Hispanic and Latino communities. House Republicans announced the Hispanic Leadership Trust in May, and co-chairman and Texas Rep. Tony Gonzalez campaigned for Flores. The RNC opened several Hispanic outreach centers in South Texas in 2021.