We have our first interesting Congressional race of 2022.
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a Brownsville Democrat, announced Monday he is retiring from Congress at the end of this term.
Vela was first elected in 2012 and represents much of the South Texas Gulf Coast. News of his retirement was first reported by Axios.
“It has been an honor to represent the citizens of the 34th District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives for the last eight years,” he said in a text to The Texas Tribune. “I will not be seeking reelection to the House of Representatives in 2022. I will continue to focus on maintaining a Democratic House and Senate Majority in my capacity as a member of Congress and Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, while working diligently for the people I am so grateful to represent.
“It is now time to allow other residents of South Texas the opportunity to fulfill this wonderful privilege for which I will be forever grateful,” he added.
Jose Borjon, a former senior adviser to Vela and a longtime confidant, said Vela never meant to overstay his time in Congress and felt now was the time to move on.
“Filemon was extremely dedicated to the people of South Texas during the time he has served in Congress,” Borjon added. “I will expect he will continue to do that as he closes out his term. … Whoever replaces him has big shoes to fill.”
Vela won reelection in 2020 by nearly 14 percentage points in a district that has generally been considered safe for Democrats. But national Republicans identified him as a target in 2022 after the GOP performed surprisingly well along the Texas-Mexico border in 2020, and this year’s redistricting process gives the party an opportunity to redraw the district in a more favorable manner for the party.
Moreover, the district saw a dramatic swing on the presidential ballot. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton carried the district by a 22-point margin. Four years later, President Joe Biden won the seat by 4 points.
Rep. Vela was the first person elected to CD34 in 2012, so whoever succeeds him will be the second person ever to hold that seat. As the story notes, he is now a Vice Chair of the DNC, so it’s not like he’s stepping away from politics. As noted, CD34 moved towards Trump in 2020, and Republicans have their eye on it, with redistricting still to come. The first post-redistricting year always features a few retirements like this, and sometimes they make a seat more of a challenge to hold. It’s obviously very early in the cycle, but we’ll have to keep an eye on developments in CD34. I wish Rep. Vela well with whatever comes next for him.