And in doing so, he’s probably going to make it harder to hold onto CD15, the swingiest district in the state (as far as we can tell from 2020 data).
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, announced Tuesday he is running for reelection in the 34th Congressional District rather than his current 15th District.
Gonzalez had been considering the move due to redistricting, which made the 15th District more competitive for Republicans — and the 34th District safer for Democrats. U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, is retiring in the 34th District, and he has voiced support for Gonzalez’s switch.
Gonzalez’s decision was made more likely by the final version of the congressional map that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday. The map redraws the 34th District to include Gonzalez’s residence.
Gonzalez was staring down a tough race in the 15th District, where he won reelection last year by a surprisingly close margin and his 2020 challenger, Monica De La Cruz, is running again with the support of national Republicans. She reiterated Monday she remains committed to the 15th District.
Under the map that Abbott signed Monday, the 15th District shifts from one that President Joe Biden won by 2 percentage points to one that Donald Trump would have carried by 3 points. The 34th District, meanwhile, goes from a district where Biden had a 4-point margin of victory to one that he would have swept by 16 points.
In the new map, both the 15th and 34th districts remain anchored in the Rio Grande Valley, with the 15th ending in Hidalgo County and the 34th ending in Cameron County. But the 34th District was revised to be more concentrated in the Valley, which is predominantly Democratic, and the 15th District was reconfigured to include fewer blue areas outside the Valley.
Gonzalez’s decision sets off a scramble to fill the Democratic primary in the 15th District. The primary has attracted at least two candidates in recent days: Ruben Ramirez, who ran for the seat in 2016, and Eliza Alvarado, an education advocate.
See here, here, and here for some background. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to be in an easier district, or for not wanting to move, but I imagine there are some teeth being gnashed at the DCCC right now. Rep. Gonzalez has two million bucks in the bank, and now none of that is going to be used to try to hold onto a close district. The Republicans are celebrating this news, and they should. It was exactly what they wanted.
All that said, CD15 is hardly a lost cause. Multiple Democrats carried it in 2020, specifically Chrysta Castaneda, Amy Clark Meachum, Gisela Triana, and Elizabeth Davis Frizell. Nearly every Dem carried CD15 by 10-12 points in 2018, with Lupe Valdez the main exception though she still did carry it. Dems had even broader margins in 2016.
Now, we’ve studied this stuff to death, and we know that Latino districts in many places took a hard turn away from Dems in 2020, with CD15 being high on that list. There’s lots of reasons to think this is part of a larger trend, the same trend that is pushing suburbs and more college-educated voters towards the Dems even as some Latinos move away from them. But so far it’s one election, and without Donald Trump on the ballot in 2022 who knows what the many lower-propensity voters who supported Trump last year will do. The main beneficiary here may be the Democrat who wins this primary.
Or maybe not. Maybe even if one of them wins in 2022, it will be super close and they’ll get wiped out in 2024, or they’ll spend however much time they have in Congress doing nothing but fundraising because they’ll always be a top national target. Again, I don’t blame anyone for not welcoming that fate, but it is what it is. It sure would have been nice to take one for the team.
One more thing:
State Rep. Alex Dominguez, D-Brownsville, had been considered a potential candidate for the 34th District, but with Gonzalez switching races, Dominguez may run for something else. His team confirmed Friday that he was instead exploring a primary challenge to state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville.
Fine by me!