District 15 sees crowded congressional race

2 years 1 week 6 hours ago Wednesday, February 16 2022 Feb 16, 2022 February 16, 2022 8:51 AM February 16, 2022 in Election Coverage

Next month’s congressional District 15 primary race is a lot more crowded than years past. 

In 2020, the District 15 congressional race saw Vicente Gonzalez against three Republicans. Gonzalez narrowly winning that general election against Republican challenger Monica De La Cruz is something that started a fire.

“Before that, nobody would even take us seriously, thinking that this area’s just blue, it will never change,” said Hidalgo County GOP Chairwoman Adrienne Pena-Garza. “So, it was sort of what we needed to show that we do — we are an area — we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

READ ALSO: Republicans look to change traditional Democrat voting trends in the Valley  

With Gonzalez now leaving for a different district, that race is now six Democrats against nine Republicans.

"There's no question about it. There are more people who self-identify and openly identify as Republicans now, and they're running for office," said Dr. Clyde Barrow, a political science professor at UTRGV. "The Republican party is more competitive than it's ever been."

Dr. Barrow says with Democratic leaders seemingly becoming more progressive, it’s a change that’s turning some voters red—something, Dr. Barrow says, was set off by former President Donald Trump.

With several candidates presenting themselves as supporters of Trump, Pena-Garza says that support helps keep the party diverse.

“There’s always been different factions in the Republican Party, and I think it’s healthy because it’s going to bring more people in,” Pena-Garza said.

READ ALSO: With a congressional seat suddenly open, Democrats in the Rio Grande Valley race to recruit for a competitive district  

Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman Patrick Eronini argues that what some call diversity, is instead division.

“The Republican Party locally and and nationally is very divided, whereas we are very united as a Democratic Party," Eronini said. "Frankly, the Republican Party no longer exists as a party itself. They have become the party of Trump.”

Despite Dr. Barrow calling District 15 a textbook example of gerrymandering, Eronini says that even with a greater number of Republicans, District 15 is not a lost cause to Democrats. 

“South Texas, we feel very comfortable," Eronini said. "We are united at South Texas, we are motivated. We’ll stand our ground, and we’ll turnout the voters, and we’ll have victory in November.”

When it comes to people showing up to the polls, Dr. Barrow says compared to the presidential election, voter turnout is not expected to be as significant.

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