Siren: GOP Flips Overwhelmingly-Hispanic Texas Border Congressional District From Blue to Red

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Posted: Jun 15, 2022 10:05 AM
Siren: GOP Flips Overwhelmingly-Hispanic Texas Border Congressional District From Blue to Red

Amid last night's primary elections was an anticipated Congressional Special Election to fill a seat in a Texas border district.  The seat had been controlled by Democrats, who won it 63-37 in 2016, then 60-40 in 2018, then 55-42 in 2020.  Biden won it by four points.  And then came last night:


We've written about heavily-Hispanic South Texas shifting politically, which would be a nightmare for Democrats.  The alarm bells are now louder than ever.  Within the last year in that region, a significant mayor's race flipped red, as did a State House seat, with another member in the vicinity switching parties to join the GOP.  To win a border Congressional district that's nearly 85 percent Hispanic is a real statement.  The Republicans recruited a Latina, who have been driving the emerging political realignment in South Texas, as their candidate.  She won (update: with 95 percent of votes in, Flores won by eight points):


'Historic win' is right: Flores becomes the first Mexican-born woman to ever serve in Congress, from either party.  Wasserman points out a few factors that may put something of a damper on the victory: "This special election was held under the old #TX34 lines, which are Biden +4. In November, she'll face Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D) in the redrawn #TX34, which is Biden +15," he notes, adding that the Cook Political Report rates the 2022 race in the new district as 'Lean Democratic.'  Fair enough.  Last night's turnout was low, and TX-34 will soon become a much bluer seat after redistricting.  Nevertheless, this outcome will be a shot in the arm to a surging Republican Party, a worrying demoralizer for the ruling Democratic Party, and a sign that some thing really is happening among Latinos.  Consider this trajectory:


That shift (~34 net points! since 2016) all happened under the current, soon-to-be-old TX-34 lines.  It's just the second time the GOP has flipped a majority-Hispanic, Democrat-held seat in the Rio Grande Valley in over 100 years.  The Democrats' House Majority PAC tried to save the seat, even for a few months, by linking the Republican to January 6th.  It didn't work.  Nancy Pelosi's tiny majority just got a seat smaller.  The implications here are much less about this individual seat, considering the big change coming to the district lines (though it would be wild if Flores could somehow manage to hold it).  It's a significant win because it confirms the national environment is dreadful for Democrats, and it will feed justified Democratic panic over Hispanics' rightward drift:


That might be overstating things a bit -- time will tell -- but the demographics-fueled inevitability of Texas turning blue is looking very much like a flawed and wishful premise right now:


Maybe Democrats should follow AOC's sage advice and lean harder into the made-up activist term 'Latinx.'  Finally, a quick note on the South Carolina primaries, in which two Congressional GOP races were of particular note.  Rep. Tom Rice, who backed Trump's second impeachment was ousted by Republican voters in a lopsided outcome.  Rep. Nancy Mace, whom Trump vocally opposed and endorsed against, won by a fairly comfortable margin, despite Trump being all-in against her -- a very nice feather in her cap, with an important assist from Nikki Haley.  (The general will be tough, but should lean GOP, especially this cycle). This strikes me as correct:


Being overtly Trump-hostile is still a career-killer for most Republicans, but having Trump aggressively hostile toward you is not necessarily the decisive blow that it once was (see Brian Kemp and Nancy Mace).  This dynamic could very much come into play moving forward.