Internal poll shows GOP candidate leading in Texas special election

Mayra Flores For Congress

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela is a Democrat who has held Texas’ 34th congressional district since he was elected in 2012. But at the end of March Vela announced he was resigning from office without finishing out the remainder of his current term (he’s taking a job with a lobbying firm). Gov. Greg Abbott called for a special election on June 14 to determine who would finish out the remainder of Vela’s term.

Mayra Flores is a GOP candidate who is running in that special election and today Politico reports some internal polling shows she’s leading the race.

Internal party polling conducted this month shows the GOP has a real shot at flipping former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela’s South Texas seat in the upcoming June special election. Republican Mayra Flores led Democrat Dan Sanchez by 5 points in a late April survey — and President Joe Biden’s job approval was underwater by 14 points in a district he carried by 4 points in 2020.

A win in this once-deep blue seat would offer a big morale boost to Republicans, who have been making a play for Latino voters in the region. And it would be a gut punch to Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who are trying to pass an election-year agenda with an already slim majority…

The poll, conducted April 19-21 by Ragnar Research for Flores and the National Republican Congressional Committee, found Flores with 24 percent, her Democratic opponent with 19 percent and 41 percent undecided. The margin of error was 4.9 percentage points and the sample size was 400 likely voters. The survey also showed a generic Republican beating a generic Democrat, 45 percent to 42 percent.

“Republicans have a real chance to win this district for the first time ever and flip a Democrat-held seat,” pollster Chris Perkins wrote in a memo obtained by POLITICO.

So this is looking like a potential flip this summer but there is a big caveat with this race. The special election is taking place using the maps that existed in 2020. Under those maps, this was a Biden +4 district. However, if Flores wins, she’ll have to compete again for the seat this November using new maps that were just created by the redistricting process. Those maps make the 34th a safer blue seat, one where Biden would have won by 16 points rather than 4. So the difficultly for a Republican trying to hold the seat will go up substantially in November.

Also, Flores isn’t currently running against a sitting member of congress in the special election, but the Democratic congressman who currently holds the 15th district has already announced he plans to run in the 34th this fall. So, if Flores wins the special election she’ll face a tougher map and an opponent who has the advantages of incumbency just a few months later.

Regardless of what happens in November, Flores is a walking billboard for Democratic concerns that they are losing their grip on Hispanic voters. In this biographic ad, Flores talks about picking cotton at the age of 13, then becoming the first person in her family to go to college and how she later wondered why so many religious, pro-life, pro-family and pro-America Hispanics vote for Democrats.

It’s a powerful ad, not just because it questions the Hispanic commitment to the Democratic Party but because it embraces the cultural core of the Republican party in a way that I think a lot of Republicans will eagerly embrace. Here’s Ted Cruz predicting Flores will be part of a wave turning south Texas red this year.