Republican Rep. Mayra Flores of Texas on Tuesday became the first Mexican-born woman to be sworn in to Congress.
“My very first day in office and it’s a memorable one for sure. This is what dreams are made of; faith, family, and hardwork,” Flores tweeted Tuesday.
Flores won a special election in Texas’ 34th Congressional District earlier this month to fill the seat vacated by former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, the first time a congressional seat has changed parties since the 2020 election. She bested a field of four candidates – two Republicans and two Democrats – in the all-party contest.
Vela left his South Texas seat in March to join a law and lobbying firm in Washington. Flores will serve the remainder of his term, until January.
“This win is for the people who were ignored for so long! This is a message that the establishment will no longer be tolerated! We have officially started the red wave!!” the Flores campaign wrote on Facebook on the night of the June 14 election. Her top Democratic opponent, Dan Sanchez, conceded the race the same night.
But Flores’ stay on Capitol Hill might be a short one – she will be up for election for a full term in November against Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who is shifting from the 15th Congressional District. The redrawn 34th District is considerably friendlier to Democrats – while now-President Joe Biden won the seat under its current lines by 4 points in 2020, he would have won the new version by about 16 points.
Flores benefited from a significant investment by national Republicans and relative indifference from Democrats, who were outspent by an estimated 20 to 1. Republicans had zeroed in on the race as part of an effort to project growing strength with moderate and conservative Hispanic voters in South Texas.
The National Republican Congressional Committee last week called Flores’ win a “blue print for success in South Texas,” according to a memo obtained by CNN.
Before last week’s election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had said it believed that Democrats would hold the seat in the fall.
“A Democrat will represent TX-34 in January. If Republicans spend money on a seat that is out of their reach in November, great,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Monica Robinson told CNN before the special election. The committee dipped into the race late, spending $100,000 on digital ads earlier this month.
The lack of support for Sanchez frustrated Gonzalez, who had told Politico weeks ago that it would “be a tragedy” if the seat turned red for any amount of time. In a statement prior to the results of the June 14 election, he welcomed the late interest in the contest but demanded more.
“I’m pleased to see Democrats mobilizing around this race,” he told CNN, “but South Texas needs sustained investment from the party.”