Hispanic women emerge as big winners in Texas GOP primary

Republicans have long argued that Donald Trump’s gains in majority-Hispanic South Texas were not a one-time deal and, instead, the beginning of a larger trend.

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The primary results on Tuesday night proved they’re right.

The GOP saw continued strong turnout in the state’s southernmost border counties in the latest display that Trump’s gains among Hispanic voters were no anomaly. But that was only part of the story. When the dust clears after the May 24 runoffs, as many as eight Latinos — including six women — could ultimately be Republican nominees for congressional seats across Texas. In the Rio Grande Valley alone, at least two Latinas will carry the GOP nod.

With the GOP continuing to pump money into South Texas and more Hispanic Republicans, particularly women, running for office, there are signs the traditional balance of power in the longtime Democratic stronghold is beginning to shift.

“We want to show Hispanics that this is what the Republican Party looks like. It looks just like them,” said Mayra Flores, who won the GOP nomination for her South Texas-based congressional seat. “We were raised to think that the Republican Party was for the rich and only white men and that’s not true. Look at us. We are the face of the party.”

Flores was one of three Hispanic women in the Rio Grande Valley to finish in first place on Tuesday, along with Monica De La Cruz, a Trump-endorsed candidate who also won her primary outright, and Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who was in the lead spot heading into a May runoff election for the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar.

If any of them win come November, they would be the first Hispanic women — and first Republicans — to hold a congressional seat in South Texas.

In Texas’ four southernmost counties, where Latinos make up more than 90 percent of the total population, Republicans received an increased share of the primary vote compared to 2018, the last midterm election. In Brownsville’s Cameron County, GOP votes made up 35 percent of the total share, compared to 23 percent in 2018. In smaller Willacy County, GOP votes jumped to 26 percent of the vote share, from 8 percent in 2018. In Hidalgo County, home to McAllen, Republican votes made up 29 percent of total votes cast, up from 17 percent in 2018.

Neighboring Starr County — where Trump went from losing by 60 percentage points to Hillary Clinton to losing by only 5 points to Joe Biden — had the most dramatic shift in South Texas percentage-wise. Only 15 votes were cast in the GOP primary in 2018, less than one percent of the votes cast. This year, it was 1,632 votes — 24 percent of the share of votes.

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