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THE HISPANIC surge within the Republican Party is nothing new. Donald Trump was able to obtain about 35% of the Hispanic vote in the presidential election in 2020 with significant gains in Texas and Florida. However, not all were convinced that the surge was sustainable.
Instead, the Latino surge has only grown larger.
Fast forward to 2022 and Mayra Flores, a Republican, is the first Mexican-born member of Congress. Depending on who you ask, Biden’s approval among Hispanics is somewhere between 20% and 30% and Democrats only have a 3% lead over Republicans in a generic congressional ballot.
Republicans are trying to take advantage of the surge by increasing the number of Hispanic candidates in the midterm elections.
A triad of Hispanic women, Mónica de la Cruz (TX-14), Cassy García (TX-28) and Mayra Flores (TX-34) might be key for the Hispanic conservative shift in South Texas. De la Cruz is the most favored one to win her district, while García faces a tough battle against moderate democrat Henry Cuéllar, and Mayra Flores might become an unintended victim of the electoral map redrawing in Texas.
In El American, we spoke with Mónica de la Cruz about her race, the priorities in her district, and the overall Hispanic shift in South Texas and America towards the Republican party. The interview has been edited for clarity.
You’re running in a district that is 81% Hispanic. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a Republican hasn’t won there since George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. So, what has changed that makes you think that you can win the district?
Well, I don’t think that the people of South Texas have changed. I think that it is the Democrat Party that has changed. The Democrat Party is no longer the party of John F. Kennedy. It’s, instead, a party that has become completely radical and so far to the left promoting outwardly socialist policies that just don’t align with the Hispanics of South Texas.
And let me be very clear. We don’t like to play ethnic or identity politics. It no longer aligns with the values of South Texans—in general.
I quite often say that it’s not Hispanics who’ve turned Republicans, it’s just that they’ve finally woken up and seen that our values align more with the Republican Party and that’s why they’re moving so quickly towards Republican policy and Republican candidates such as myself.
Do you think that this Hispanic shift to the GOP is as you just mentioned, a natural reaction from the Hispanic community, or has the GOP actually improved the way they get the message to the Hispanic community in South Texas and more broadly in the U.S.?
I think that Hispanics are smart, they’re hard-working, they love God, they love their families. And it’s about what’s really just happening in our nation, not about messaging. If you look at the 2020 election, when I ran, there was not $1 that was spent by the national Republican Party down here in South Texas. It was myself running on a platform of values and trying to reflect the priorities of the community, along with hundreds of volunteers that actively and passionately worked in this district just by volunteering.
What that tells you is that the people here in South Texas are just sick and tired of Democrats, that they’re becoming mobilized. They’re trying to save their families, their faith, and their country and really are working to do that. So, we saw that in the 2020 election. And now in 2022, with the election of Congresswoman Mayra Flores and myself in November, we’re going to just see an outpouring towards the Republican Party.
Do you think that immigration is the number one issue for Hispanics in the U.S.? Do you think that Hispanics prefer a more flexible immigration system into the U.S.?
I believe that the number one issue is actually border security and illegal immigration. And I’m going to repeat that again: illegal immigration. As I go up and down this district, what I hear most from Hispanics who are here legally is that they patiently waited for their time and are extremely proud to be American citizens.
What they really fear is what’s happening to those coming across illegally, where they’re taken advantage of by the cartels, where they do not get to live the American dream but are still getting to have all these benefits from the Biden administration and the taxpayers.
People are frustrated because they’re coming from countries all over the world that are unstable, where there’s lawlessness and they’re coming to America because they want to feel secure. They want to live in communities that are secure. So when they see the Biden administration has an open border where we have apprehended 66 people on the terrorist watch list, that scares not only legal immigrants but all Americans. We want a safe country. And so, I would say that border security along with illegal immigration is the number one issue facing the constituents of Texas 15th.
And what do you think of this article by The New York Times calling you, Mayra Flores, and Cassy García ‘far-right Latinas’?
Look again, you’re talking about The New York Times and people like AOC who feel that they can talk for the Hispanics in South Texas when they don’t live here. They don’t understand us. And a reporter thinks that they can spend five minutes with some people here in the Rio Grande Valley and have it all summed up in one paragraph in their newspaper. They are sadly mistaken. And where that’s going to show is in November when we see people go to the polls and vote based on a policy that worked in the previous administration, based on family and faith.
Do you think that Democrats understand the priorities of the Hispanic community in the U.S. and especially in South Texas?
Quite honestly, I don’t think they care. They don’t care about the differences between Hispanics. They don’t care about the Hispanic vote. They’re hypocrites. They say that they’re the party of inclusion and of women’s rights. But when Mayra Flores became a Congresswoman, they viciously attacked her for being a Mexican-American, and now a Congresswoman, they viciously attacked her for being Hispanic and from South Texas.
What does that show you? What that shows you is that if you don’t fall in line with their platform, they will attack you. What they should have been doing is praising Congresswoman Mayra Flores for her bravery and her courage to run in that special election. But, instead, they savagely attacked her because, at the end of the day, it’s not about Hispanics or what kind of Hispanic you are. It’s about being a person who’s going to fall in line and support their radical socialist agenda.
You’re in the 15th district, which is in South Texas. So of course, border security is a huge issue for your voters, as you mentioned. But what priorities have you identified among them? What are they talking about aside from border security?
What people are talking about right now is inflation, the cost of goods, and rising prices. I speak with small business owners all the time and they say, Mónica, I don’t know if I can keep my doors open. The cost of tortillas, the cost of sodas has just gotten so expensive that it’s driving consumers away from our restaurants. It’s driving consumers from buying our goods, and I don’t know if I can keep my doors open.
When I met recently with a single mom, she said, “Monica, I’ve received a small increase in pay. And I know that my small business owner, my boss, is trying to help me, but really, I don’t know that I can afford a new pair of shoes for my son going to school.” These are scary times for parents and families because prices are rising and they don’t know at what point it’s going to stop. So, what’s happening in the economy is definitely the most important issue after border security right now.
Are you optimistic about November? Even though the polls are not as optimistic for Republicans as a couple of months ago?
I am very optimistic about November. And the reason why is because, number one, we started this path in 2020. We have the name recognition. We never stopped working for the constituents of the Texas 15th District. And they see that not only that but that the policies the Biden administration has put forward are destroying American families. It’s destroying our small businesses.
And really, at the end of the day, I’m standing for the values that truly reflect Latinos here: they love God, they love their family, but they love the American dream and the opportunity to fulfill their dream. So, I know that we’ll cross the line.
Edgar is political scientist and philosopher. He defends the Catholic intellectual tradition. Edgar writes about religion, ideology, culture, US politics, abortion, and the Supreme Court. Twitter: @edgarjbb_ // Edgar es politólogo y filósofo. Defiende la tradición intelectual católica. Edgar escribe sobre religión, ideología, cultura, política doméstica, aborto y la Corte Suprema. Twitter: @edgarjbb_