The decision was first reported by the managing editor of Punchbowl News and confirmed by the Texas Tribune.
Vela’s office did not respond to an inquiry as of the time of publication.
The congressman’s sudden resignation from his position will trigger a special election with timing that could look similar to the special emergency election held in 2018 for Texas’ 27th Congressional District.
Around the same time in that election cycle, Congressman Blake Farenthold resigned from Congress amid claims of sexual harassment.
To hold an election distant enough to meet filing requirements but before the other uniform election date in November, Gov. Greg Abbott inquired the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) if his emergency powers under the Texas Disaster Act allowed him to suspend relevant election laws in light of the Hurricane Harvey disaster declaration affecting the counties of the district.
The OAG affirmed that, “To the extent that the special election procedures established in the Election Code prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey,” the Disaster Act permitted the governor to suspend those provisions.
Every county in the state is currently under a disaster declaration for COVID-19 that Gov. Abbott has renewed on a monthly basis for two years.
The early election to fill the remainder of Vela’s term through the end of the year presents a unique opportunity for Republicans to gain a new seat ahead of the next Congress.
Under the district boundaries for current members — what would be used in a special election instead of the new congressional map drawn for the 2022 general election — the 34th Congressional District is more favorable toward Republicans.
In 2020, the median vote in support of Democrats under the new boundaries was 60 percent. Under the boundaries that will be used in a special election, the median vote for Democrats was 54 percent.
While still leaning toward Democrats, South Texas has seen a strong shift toward Republicans in recent election cycles and the GOP has ramped up efforts to gain more representation in the region.
Another advantage that the GOP has over Democrats is that the nominee for the general election, Mayra Flores, has said that she plans to run in the special election, while the Democratic nominee is Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), who currently represents a neighboring district and reportedly will not run in the special election.
“We have been working very hard in South Texas for years,” said Flores. “We had historic gains in the 2020 elections and will make history again in 2022! This special election is an opportunity for us to capture it in God’s name!”
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.