Elections 2022South Texas Congressional Districts Broke Leftward Partisan Trend of Suburban Seats

The greatest swings toward the GOP over the past decade occurred in the three South Texas congressional districts.
February 8, 2022
Though Beto O’Rourke lost his 2018 challenge against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), his fierce campaign spurred the largest victories for Democrats down the ballot that the Lone Star State has seen in recent memory.

Even under the new map that was drawn to bolster support with Republicans, the median vote for GOP candidates running statewide declined in every congressional district in Texas that year when compared to 2016.

Every district, that is, except three.

Texas’ 34th, 15th, and 28th congressional districts all broke the trend and saw increases toward Republicans in 2018. And the same three districts had the largest 10-year shifts toward Republicans compared to the other 35 districts in Texas.

The median vote for Republicans in the 34th Congressional District (TX-34) shifted 8.9 percent between the 2012 and 2020 elections; TX-15 shifted by 7.0 percent; and TX-28 shifted by 5.9 percent, according to data from the Texas Legislative Council.

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Another similarity between the districts is that, although they still all favor Democrats based on their Texas Partisan Index (TPI), they are all the most competitive Democrat-leaning congressional districts.

Republicans see the opportunity and have been increasing efforts to swing the region up and down the ballot in coming years, beginning with the midterm elections.

Of the three congressional districts, ground zero for the political battle has shaped up to be TX-15, the most competitive in the state.

The writing was on the wall that Republicans would aim to swing the seat after Republican candidate Monica De La Cruz ran a close challenge against incumbent Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15) in 2020.

After state lawmakers redrew the map to become even more favorable to Republicans, Gonzalez was drawn into the congressional district of retiring Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX-34) where he is seeking to be elected this year.

De La Cruz is once again a frontrunner in the race this year, raising over half a million dollars in the last quarter of 2021.

But with the big swings in the other South Texas districts in the past decade, Republican hopes could extend to the neighboring districts.

The spotlight was shone on TX-28, the second-most competitive Democrat-held seat, a few weeks ago when the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the home and campaign office of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28).

Cuellar is now facing viable electoral threats from both progressives in his own party and seven Republicans aiming to challenge him, who collectively reported receipts of $570,000 in the last quarter — bolstered in large part by businessman Ed Cabrera’s self-loan of $250,000.

TX-34 is the safest for Democrats with a TPI of D-63%, and of the four Republicans running for the seat, only two filed required finance reports: Mayra Flores, who reported $56,000 in receipts for the last three months of 2021, and Frank McCaffrey, who reported $9,000 in receipts for that time period.

But with the coastal district shifting the most toward Republicans in the past five election cycles, the seat could be inching closer toward GOP control in the near future.

Despite Republican gains in South Texas, though, many of the other congressional districts saw even greater trends away from the GOP.

In contrast to the three aforementioned seats, there were 10 congressional districts — mostly in the areas of the state that have experienced a booming population — that saw similar or greater shifts away from Republicans in the same timeframe:

  • TX-02 and TX-38, both in the Harris County area, saw the greatest shifts away from Republicans at 9.5 percent both;
  • TX-24, which contains many of the suburbs north of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, shifted 9.3 percent away from the GOP;
  • TX-22, anchored in Fort Bend County, shifted 9 percent;
  • TX-37, located in Austin, shifted 8.6 percent;
  • TX-26 and TX-03, anchored in Denton and Collin counties, respectively, both shifted 8.4 percent;
  • TX-32, anchored in Dallas, shifted 7.2 percent;
  • TX-07, anchored in Houston, shifted 6.5 percent;
  • And TX-21, which includes many of the growing suburbs between San Antonio and Austin, shifted 6.0 percent.

Out of the remaining districts, 14 shifted away from Republicans between 1 and 6 percent, four shifted away by less than 1 percent, four shifted toward Republicans by less than 1 percent, and three shifted toward the GOP between 1 and 5 percent.

A full spreadsheet of the changes in the median vote broken down by district and year can be found here.


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Daniel Friend

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.