“If the proposed Texas Congressional maps are passed, much of my constituency will be in District 34,” Gonzalez said in a statement first issued to Mediafrolic. “I have received many calls from all over South Texas encouraging me to run in this district. If in fact these are the last cards I will seriously consider running in 34 and my representation of South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley to continue.”
House Republicans, who have identified Gonzalez’s current McAllen-based district as: their best pick up in Texas, will welcome the news that the Democrats are losing power from the establishment in a difficult battlefield.
Gonzalez, who was first elected in 2016, said he has more than $2 million in his campaign account to use in a primary for Vela’s seat. He also said that if he changed districts, he would be sure we have another candidate who could keep his 15th district in Democratic hands.
Even before the GOP-controlled reshuffle began, Gonzalez was likely to face a tough re-election. His current district, which includes McAllen and extends north toward San Antonio, made a hard swing to the right last year.
Hillary Clinton won the seat by 17 points in 2016; but Joe Biden won it four years later by just 2 points. Meanwhile, Gonzalez saw his margin of victory shrink to 3 points in 2020 against an opponent who spent less than $300,000. That candidate, Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, is running this cycle again.
All three districts in the Rio Grande Valley saw a similar shift to the right in 2020 – something the incumbents attributed both to Trump’s wave among Latino men and to some progressive Democratic policies and slogans that didn’t play well along the border.
That made all three a target for GOP mapmakers in reclassification. So far, the state legislature has acted somewhat conservatively, proposing: turning the district of Gonzalez into a battlefield and its neighbor to the west, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, a seat that Biden would have worn by 7 points.
The Republicans’ map would turn the Brownsville-based seat of Vela, who announced his retirement earlier this year, to one that Biden supported by nearly 16 points in 2020.
In a statement to Mediafrolic, Vela said, “I will support Congressman Gonzalez no matter what district he is in.”
Gonzalez said he chose to sit in Vela’s seat because the incumbent is retiring and because Vela has absorbed some of his Democratic voters from Hidalgo County.
But Gonzalez hasn’t approved the Democratic primary yet field. He can still face carpet bag attacks because his hometown of McAllen is in his old district, and he’s also a more moderate and a member of the Blue Dog Coalition.
four Democrats are running for the seat. The most prominent is Rochelle Garza, a civil rights attorney from Brownsville. But most will probably struggle to match Gonzalez’s war chest.
A trial attorney by profession, Gonzalez also has the option of self-funding.