Criminal JusticeElections 2022Immigration & BorderLocal NewsThree Border District Democrats Contend with Republican Challengers

With border security a top priority for many voters, Republican challengers hope to unseat three Democratic incumbents in South Texas.
November 1, 2022
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Border security has consistently polled as a top issue for Texas voters, with the issue taking first place in several recent polls, including one from the University of Texas at Tyler released this week.

With 1.5 million encounters of illegal aliens in Texas alone during Fiscal Year 2022 by border agents, the border crisis’s severe impact on Texas communities has made the issue soar to the top of voters’ priorities.

With this election, several Texas border races have drawn national attention, including Congressional District 34, which includes a stretch of the southern border in far South Texas along the Gulf of Mexico. Incumbent Republican Congresswoman Mayra Flores (R-TX-34) is battling to maintain her seat against Democratic challenger Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), with recent polls placing the race as a toss-up.

Gonzalez filed to challenge Flores for her seat due to redistricting, creating an unusual circumstance where two incumbent lawmakers are in the race.  

But while several state legislative races along the border are not capturing equivalent attention, the prominence of the border issue combined with recent poll numbers make these races worthy to watch, where Democratic incumbents hope to fend off the GOP.

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Texas House District 74

With the longest share of the southern border contained in any district of the Texas Legislature, Texas House District (HD) 74 spans from Maverick County on its eastern side and touches El Paso to its west — sharing some 770 miles of border with Mexico.

Incumbent Representative Eddie Morales (D-Eagle Pass) is seeking re-election after his first term in office, having been elected in 2021. Morales is an attorney and lifelong resident of Eagle Pass.

He is facing rancher and businesswoman Katherine Parker of Alpine.

Describing himself as “the border guy” while introducing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke at a campaign rally in Alpine, Morales has cited several border security proposals in his campaign material, such as expanding the size of land ports of entry to prevent illegal aliens from crossing the river in dangerous locations; expanding Highway 57 to accommodate increased border-related traffic; increasing funding to expand the Carrizo Cane Eradication Program; and creating a guest worker program.

Notably, he also indicated support for imposing immediate deportation consequences on those crossing the Rio Grande illegally.

Parker is also campaigning on border security.

“Living on the southern border of Texas most of my life, I have seen first-hand the dangers of illegal crossings, human trafficking, and drugs,” Parker’s campaign website says. “We absolutely must secure our southern border. This position is one we all should agree on, and I will fight for the resources and funding necessary from the federal government to allow our hardworking border security agents to do just that.”

Parker has also described the record number of deaths on the southern border as an “outrage” and described the border crisis as a “massive issue that is only escalating.”

Before redistricting, Morales won the seat with 53.9 percent of the vote in 2020. The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index (TPI) shows the district at D-58%, meaning Democrats lead Republicans by an average of 16 points. 

Senate District 19

One of the largest border districts for the upper chamber of the Texas Legislature, five of Senate District (SD) 19’s 14 counties are on the border, from Maverick County to the east to Brewster to the west. Like many border communities, SD 19 is experiencing its fair share of issues stemming from the crisis.

The district is presently represented by Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio), an immigration attorney and former state representative.

In his first term, Gutierrez won election to the Senate in 2020 by defeating former Republican State Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) 49.85 to 46.55 percent, according to the Texas Secretary of State (SOS).

Gutierrez is facing Republican challenger Robert Garza, the former mayor of Del Rio and an attorney who has held several local elected offices in prior years including city council and school board.Hinoj

Gutierrez has been critical of a southern border wall and filed legislation in opposition to it, calling for more environmentally friendly solutions instead.

Garza, on the other hand, is campaigning extensively on border security, writing that “it is incumbent on every public official – federal, state and local – to publicly voice opposition to the ‘open borders policy,’ to seek strict enforcement of immigration laws” on his website.

Currently, the TPI rating for the district shows it leaning 57 percent favoring Democrats.

Senate District 20

SD 20 has been represented by state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) since 2003, and the South Texas Democrat readily boasts a record of voting to secure millions in funding for the State of Texas’ border security operations — outlining how he has obtained funding to aid the state in combatting human trafficking and anti-gang related efforts.

Hidalgo County is the district’s only county on the border.

Hinojosa is facing Republican challenger Westley Wright, a Corpus Christi-based rancher and small businessman who was forced to close one of his businesses due to pandemic lockdown mandates.

Wright wrote that border communities are under attack from gangs and cartels, and cited an unwillingness among elected officials to address the issue.

“Drug and human traffickers, gangs, and cartels are invading our communities due to our elected official’s unwillingness to secure our southern border. We need representation that will fight to protect our families, not ignore this horrendous practice.” his campaign page states.

According to election data from the SOS, Hinojosa is in the safest seat of the three, having won his last election in 2020 over Republican challenger Judith Cutright with 58.5 percent. The TPI index currently places the race at 59 percent favoring Democrats.

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Matt Stringer

Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy in West Texas. He graduated summa cum laude from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and is presently finishing a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.