Mayra Flores, Republican candidate for Texas' 34th Congressional District, greets supporters during a blockwalk kick-off event at a Mexican restaurant in Brownsville, Texas, on February 19, 2022.
Latinas are pushing for a Republican revolution in South Texas
04:17 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

Conservatives are heralding them as “real deal” Republican candidates. They are seen as proof that the GOP can win over Latino voters. They are three Latinas from South Texas: Mayra Flores, who won a special election to represent part of the Gulf Coast, and Monica De La Cruz and Cassy Garcia, who are in congressional races in districts along the Mexican border.

Raul A. Reyes

Flores made history as the first Mexican-born woman to be elected to Congress. These women have drawn national attention for seeming to shatter the myth that Latinos generally vote Democratic. As Garcia recently told The New York Times, “The red wave is here.”

But the rise of Flores, De La Cruz and Garcia deserves to be seen in context. While these Latinas may be having a moment in the spotlight, they hold views outside the Latino mainstream. Their current prominence is more of a publicity coup for the GOP than an authentic reflection of Latino voters.

Like most other Republicans, these Latinas hold conservative positions on abortion, gun control and immigration.

That’s just not where most Latinos are these days. The Pew Research Center reports that 60% of Hispanic adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while a June Quinnipiac University survey found that 58% of Hispanics favor stricter gun laws. Pew notes that an overwhelming majority of Latinos favor major fixes in the US immigration system. The fact that fresh faces such as Garcia are decrying “complete chaos” at the border doesn’t obscure that this is simply recycled rhetoric from former President Donald Trump.

Besides being Trump supporters, what Flores, De La Cruz and Garcia have in common is extreme views. On social media, Flores promoted January 6 conspiracy theories as well as the QAnon hashtag in now-deleted tweets. (QAnon is a conspiracy theory that the FBI has called a domestic terrorist threat.) When a New York Times reporter asked four times if President Joe Biden was legitimately elected, Flores only answered that Biden was “the worst president of the United States.”

De La Cruz has amplified Trump’s claims about the 2020 election being stolen and suggested, without evidence, that she lost an earlier race because of election fraud. Garcia welcomed an endorsement from Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the third-ranking House Republican, who has echoed the “great replacement theory” that purportedly motivated the suspect in the 2019 El Paso shooting.

This “Texas trio” of Latinas has played into the media narrative that Latinos are abandoning the Democratic Party for the GOP. But in January, Gallup found there were “few signs so far of significant shift among Hispanic Americans away from their traditional Democratic political identity.”

Consider that Flores won her congressional seat in an election where 29,000 people voted. The Texas Observer reported that this turnout amounted to about 7% of eligible voters casting a ballot. That’s hardly a “red wave.” In November, Flores will face a popular incumbent congressman in a newly drawn district that favors Democrats, so her time in the House of Representatives might only be six months. Her election is more of an outlier than a symbol of a national trend.

It is troubling that Flores downplays the importance of the January 6 committee hearings, telling The New York Times, “My district doesn’t care about that.” As a member of Congress, is it not her duty to care about the Capitol insurrection?

Certainly, Democrats need to invest more in Latino communities. Some Latinos say that they feel Democrats take them for granted, a sentiment that provides an opening for the GOP in areas such as the Rio Grande Valley.

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    Yet Latino support for Democrats remains broad and strong. In the 2020 presidential election, Latinos went for Biden over Trump 59% to 38%. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris still top Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence in Latino favorability ratings – and that’s according to a Fox News poll.

    It is welcome news when more Latinos of any political affiliation run for office. But our country needs Latinos who reflect their communities, reject conspiracy theories and respect democracy. The last thing we need is a Latina Marjorie Taylor Greene.