RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (Nexstar) — While a “red wave” in South Texas wasn’t as big as the GOP was hoping for, Congresswoman-elect Monica De La Cruz still made history becoming the first Republican to represent Texas’ 15th Congressional District.
After running for the same seat in 2020, Monica De La Cruz won her election Tuesday to represent what has been a longtime Democratic stronghold district in the Rio Grande Valley.
De La Cruz was the only one of three Republican Latinas to win her competitive congressional race in South Texas, after the national party spent loads of time and money in the region, aiming to flip all three blue seats red.
The race between De La Cruz and newcomer progressive Michelle Vallejo was arguably the most competitive U.S. House race in Texas. De La Cruz aligned herself with Trump and a conservative, anti-Biden agenda focused on issues like border security and immigration. Vallejo largely planted her stakes in reproductive rights and affordable healthcare access, campaigning on her personal ties with the community.
“I want it to be known that my victory is not just a win for Republicans,” De La Cruz said at her election party in McAllen. “It is a win for all of South Texas.”
Outside national money flooded De La Cruz’s campaign, raking in more than $4.3 million. Vallejo, on the other hand, brought in a little under half as much — gathering sizable donations from state donors but not seeing the same level of investment from national Democrats.
While De La Cruz’s win was historic for her party, Democrats have been quick to denounce claims of a “red wave” in the region.
Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa wrote on Twitter: “There was no red wave in South Texas. There wasn’t even a red ripple. Republicans in Austin and D.C. should understand that if they could barely eke out this one win here, they should probably pack up their bags and get the hell out of our region.”
The other two main congressional seats in the Rio Grande Valley that Republicans were vying for went to Democratic incumbents. Laredo Congressman Henry Cuellar defeated challenger Cassy Garcia in Texas’ 28th District.
Garcia conceded Tuesday night, writing on Twitter, “I gave it my all, but unfortunately, we came up short.”
U.S. Rep. Vincente Gonzalez — who was the Democratic incumbent in the 15th District — switched to run in Texas’ neighboring 34th District, due to redistricting in his region that favored Republicans. Gonzalez beat out incumbent Congresswoman Mayra Flores, a Republican who revved up the national party after winning her seat in a June special election.
“The RED WAVE did not happen,” Flores said on Twitter. “Republicans and Independents stayed home. DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE RESULTS IF YOU DID NOT DO YOUR PART!”
Dr. Natasha Altema McNeely, an associate professor of politics at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, said there are a multitude of factors that affected these congressional races.
“Republicans invested in their candidates, they invested time, they invested presence,” she said. “Existing research shows that especially for communities of color like the Valley, direct mobilization effort matters. And so this lack of presence by the Democratic national leadership really hurt mobilization efforts on the ground.”
McNeely says regardless of the outcomes, history was made in the Valley.
“The impact of these, of two of the three triple-threat Latinas, has been significant here in the Valley,” she said. “Now we have historical elections of Latinas and Latina Republicans, in districts that historically had been solidly Democratic, but also held by male congressmen.”