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Republicans have 'real shot' to flip 'unwinnable' Texas border seat as Biden's illegal immigration failures crush the district

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

A Democratic congressman's decision to retire early is being blamed for giving Republicans a real chance at flipping their first South Texas congressional seat in years. But should the GOP earn a shock victory in the border district, President Biden's failures to control illegal immigration will likely have played a major part.

According to Texas Monthly, the state's 34th congressional district, which stretches from just outside San Antonio to Brownsville, should have been "unwinnable."

It's a seat that Democrats have owned since its creation through Census redistricting in 2010. In each of the three presidential elections since then, voters in the district have favored Democratic candidates — by wide margins in 2012 and 2016, though by a slimmer margin in 2020.

But when Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) announced that he would be vacating his seat early to take a job as an attorney at a lobbying firm late last month, Democrats were reportedly thrown into disarray. Now conservative candidate Mayra Flores has a "real shot" to carry the district.

Flores — a local health care worker and immigrant daughter of Mexican farmers who happens to be married to a Border Patrol agent — is the current Republican nominee vying for the seat. Sensing an opportunity, she has made border security a major theme of her campaign ahead of the June 14 special election.

"Illegal immigration encourages and funds human/child trafficking," she states on her campaign website. "I legally immigrated to America when I was six years old. Living in South Texas offers a unique perspective on illegal immigration and how it affects the livelihood of American citizens. We MUST secure our border to keep bad individuals out and to encourage LEGAL immigration."

In conversations with Texas Monthly, she pressed the issue further: "Democrats right now here in South Texas, they don’t speak about our border crisis. They’re not standing with our Border Patrol agents. They’re not standing with our law enforcement. They’re completely quiet."

Flores also currently serves as the Hidalgo County GOP Hispanic Outreach Chair and is active on social media. She is certainly becoming a figurehead of the growing Republican movement which hopes to capitalize on the party's inroads with Hispanic voters in the country's border districts.

In the special election, she is slated to face off against Rep. Vicente González Jr. (D-Texas), who currently represents the state's 15th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Border security is expected to play such an important role in the race that González in recent months, like fellow Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, has broken ranks with his party to criticize the Biden administration's handling of the immigration crisis.

The Center Square reported that González has expressed concerns with how the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies "plan to maintain order and prevent border communities from being overwhelmed" and has "implored" the Biden administration to do more to help "South Texas and communities across the U.S.-Mexico Border."

But if voter sentiment is leaning against the current administration, González may be defeated by association. And, come June, Republicans may be celebrating victory in one of the unlikeliest of places.

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