By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Four Latina Republican Texans are hoping to flip key regions of the southern border in Texas red.
They’re all pro-life and support strong borders and legal immigration. With crime and other consequences of illegal immigration impacting their region, the border remains front and center in the congressional districts.
Two districts are in the Rio Grande Valley. The other is farther northwest along the border and home to longtime incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.
One of the most influential women helping to register more Republicans to vote in the Rio Grande Valley is Adrienne Peña-Garza. The first woman elected to chair the Hidalgo County GOP, she’s running for vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas, hoping to be elected this week at the Texas Republican Convention.
She’s been endorsed by Donald Trump Jr. and Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi, among many others.
“Standing up for conservative values in a blue county along the South Texas border hasn’t always been easy,” she said in a recent social media post. She’s been “standing up against the most powerful Democrats,” she said, and is “ready to fight” statewide.
She credits her father, former state Rep. Aaron Peña, a Republican, for paving the way for conservative political advocacy in deep South Texas. In a region that’s been Democratic-controlled for more than 100 years, residents are increasingly voting Republican.
Ms. Peña-Garza’s efforts helped nearly double voter turnout in 2016 in the valley and increased President Donald Trump’s numbers by 43%, the Texas Monthly reported. Her efforts to register more residents to vote are also largely credited for more Republicans at the border voting for Mr. Trump in 2020.
Officials in both parties describe the border races as those that will define South Texas’s shifting political identity for decades, with the outcomes having higher stakes than just the midterm elections.
In District 15, Republican Monica De La Cruz is likely running against Democrat Michelle Vallejo. Vallejo’s win by 33 votes in a recent primary runoff election is being challenged.
District 15 was vacated by incumbent Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, who is running for re-election in District 34 after redistricting.
Ms. Vallejo said she won “through a pueblo-powered process with LUPE Votes.” Her platform includes pro-abortion rights, “Medicare for All,” a mandatory $15 minimum wage, a federal jobs guarantee program providing union jobs, open borders and a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, and expanding asylum.
Ms. De La Cruz, who won a crowded primary race, has been endorsed by Mr. Trump and heavy hitters in the GOP. She’s running on a strong border security and pro-life platform – the opposite of Ms. Vallejo’s. It includes reinstating the Remain in Mexico policy, ending President Joe Biden’s “catch and release” policy, finishing the border wall, hiring more immigration judges, among other positions.
She said the district’s heavily Roman Catholic residents are largely pro-life. Her home town of Edinburg became a sanctuary city for the unborn in 2020. Ms. Vallejo’s agenda is out of touch with its residents, she argues.
In District 34, Mayra Flores, Hidalgo County GOP’s Hispanic Outreach Chair, is running against incumbent Mr. Gonzalez after winning a crowded primary race. Wife to a Border Patrol agent, she ran on a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and pro-law enforcement platform that prioritizes border security and legal immigration.
Mr. Gonzalez, who supports President Joe Biden’s agenda on a range of issues and is pro-choice, is facing a tough race against Flores.
In District 28, Republican Cassie Garcia is hoping to unseat Rep. Cuellar. Ms. Garcia, a former deputy state director for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was appointed by Mr. Trump in 2020 to serve as commissioner for the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative.
People “across this district are hungry for a new voice in Washington, one that inspires hope and is focused on creating jobs, protecting innocent life, and upholding our Constitutional rights,” she said.
Rep. Cuellar, whose primary runoff election win is also being challenged, is favored to defend his seat in November. He’s been a vocal critic of the Biden administration’s open border policies and was heavily criticized by his challengers for being the only pro-life Democrat in the Texas delegation.
Holding fast to his beliefs, he argues the Democratic Party had gone “a little bit to the left in many ways. I want to stay true to my principles … to my community.” Despite the fact that “radical special interest groups spent over $10 million in an attempt to push their out-of-touch, New York values on Texans” in the district, he said, voters stopped them.
Of Ms. Garcia, he said she “won’t be able to attack me on issues about the border, fighting for Border Patrol, making sure that we don’t have open borders,” adding that it would be harder for her than Democrats to defeat him.