Elections 2022FederalTwo Democrats, Two Republicans Vie for South Texas Congressional Seat in Tonight’s Special Election

Greg Abbott and Matt Rinaldi have endorsed Flores, and Democratic Reps. Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez have endorsed Sanchez.
June 14, 2022
Two Democrats and two Republicans are vying to replace Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX-34) in a special election tomorrow after he announced his retirement from Congress.

The candidates are Republicans Mayra Flores and Juana “Janie” Cantú-Cabrera and Democrats Dan Sanchez and Rene Coronado.

Flores, a respiratory care practitioner by trade who immigrated from Mexico with her family as a child, said she prioritizes border security and pro-life legislation.

Cantú-Cabrera calls herself “the only candidate running that is pro-women’s health rights,” identifying more as an independent than a Republican. She named border security, elder care, and keeping critical race theory out of education as her top policy priorities.

Sanchez is a local government fixture in Cameron County, having served as assistant district attorney, justice of the peace, and commissioner on the county court, an office he has held since 2011. His top policy priority is lowering healthcare costs and maintaining Medicare.

The Texan Tumbler

Coronado, a former Army officer, now works as the Civil Service Director for the City of Brownsville. He said his primary policy goal would be to make Bitcoin legal tender.

Major figures from each party have rallied behind Flores and Sanchez as their respective picks. Governor Greg Abbott and Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi both support Flores, while Vela and Gonzalez both support Sanchez.

According to available data from the Federal Election Commission, Flores is the strongest fundraiser in the race, boasting just over a million dollars in total receipts. Sanchez takes second place with $146,000 in total receipts.

Flores had already won the Republican nomination in the March 1 primary before Vela announced his retirement.

A congressman representing a neighboring area of Texas, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), earned the Democratic nomination for the seat in the March 1 primary. However, the terrain changed when Vela resigned later that same month. After Abbott set a special election for June 14, Gonzalez said he would not leave his current seat to run for District 34 in the middle of the year.

As the strongest Democrat in the race, Gonzalez’s decision not to run was a windfall for Republicans, who are optimistic about their chances of flipping the seat.

Additionally, Abbott’s proclamation handed Republicans other advantages.

The U.S. Constitution and Texas Election Code require special elections to fill vacancies in Congress. Normally, according to state law, these elections must be held on a uniform election date no sooner than 36 days after the special election was ordered. In this case, since Abbott ordered the election on April 4, the nearest uniform date would be in November.

However, Abbott said that heightened border crossings and COVID-19 require an emergency election. Otherwise, the district would go unrepresented for several months.

Under the Texas Disaster Act, Abbott can cite the disaster declarations he has issued for the pandemic and border crisis to suspend certain laws, including election laws that would require the election to be held in November.

“[U]nless suspended, the aforementioned state election laws will deny the residents of Congressional District 34 an effective voice in the U.S. House of Representatives until November 2022, at the earliest,” Abbott’s proclamation reads.

The timing may give Republicans an edge because of redistricting.

The November 2022 elections will be the first under the new congressional maps. Under its new boundaries, District 34 will encompass a more Democratic voting population than the current version. But the special election will include the current voting population, not the new one.

In statistical terms, the median vote in support of Democrats in the new boundaries was 63 percent in 2020. The median vote for Democrats in the old boundaries was 54 percent.

Both lean Democratic, but the current map is more favorable to Republicans.

Early voting ended June 10.


Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.

Get “KB's Hot Take”

A free bi-weekly commentary on current events by Konni Burton.

Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.