Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Meet Mayra Flores: First Congresswoman-Elect Born in Mexico

In a June 14 special election, Mayra Flores helped flip a longtime Democratic stronghold and became the first congresswoman-elect to be born in Mexico. The Republican will fill the remainder of Rep. Filemon Vela’s term.

(TNS) — Republican Mayra Flores made history Tuesday, June 14, night when she won a special election in a South Texas congressional district, flipping a longtime Democratic stronghold and soon becoming the first congresswoman born in Mexico.

She will fill the remainder of U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela's term, which expires in January. Vela, a Brownsville Democrat, resigned from the seat in March to take a job at a lobbying firm.

Here are five things to know about the congresswoman-elect, who will represent Texas' 34th district:

1. Her victory was notable for two reasons

Don't be surprised if you see Republicans talking about this win for weeks. They worked hard for it.

In 2020, Republicans saw a rightward shift in the traditionally blue South Texas, where the vast majority of voters are Hispanic. Over the past two years, they invested heavily in the region — both in money and resources — and Flores' victory is the fruit of their labor.

She is the first Republican elected to represent this area of the Rio Grande Valley in more than 150 years.

But that isn't the only reason why Flores' win was notable. Once sworn in, she will be the first congresswoman born in Mexico — a huge feat considering the first congressman born in Mexico was elected over a century ago.

"I will be the first Mexican American in Congress and the Republican Party in 2022," Flores said in a March interview. "That says a lot. ... There hasn't been a woman elected in the Republican Party that is a Mexican American. So if we want to get more Hispanics to vote Republican, we do need that representation and not just on one party."

2. But her win has an asterisk

Last year, the Texas Legislature went through its once-a-decade redistricting process, redrawing state and congressional maps to reflect population growth. Under the current lines, which were used in Tuesday's election, President Joe Biden won the 34th district by just 4 percentage points.

That number on its own made the race tight. But Flores had other advantages, including the fact that Democrats didn't really invest in the race and special elections are notoriously low turnout.

It'll be a different landscape in November, when Flores will run for a full term. Then, the new boundaries will make the district much bluer — Biden +15.5 — and Flores will face U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who is switching districts to run in the 34th.

The election will be a rare face-off between two sitting members of Congress. Even though the midterms are widely expected to favor Republicans, Democrats say they're confident that Gonzalez will win.

3. Immigration is a top issue, and it's personal

Flores, 36, was born in Burgos, Tamaulipas, Mexico. She immigrated to the United States when she was 6 years old and became a citizen at 14. She started working at 13, picking cotton with her parents in the Panhandle town of Memphis, to pay for her own school supplies and clothes.

Now the mother of four young children and the wife of a Border Patrol agent, she often starts her pitch to voters the same way: Soy el sueño americano. I am the American dream.

As such, immigration is a deeply personal issue. She supports heightened border security, immigration reform and a legal path to citizenship.

"If we really care about immigrants and children, we wouldn't want them to cross that dangerous river," Flores said in March. "We wouldn't want them to come across dangerous criminal organizations. If you really care about them, we're going to have to help them come in through the door."

4. "God, family, country"

The remainder of Flores' platform aligns with the mainstream GOP. Her Twitter bio lists all of her "pros" — pro-God, pro-life, pro-family, pro-America — and Flores has relied heavily on her Christian faith throughout her campaign. ("God heard our prayers," she tweeted Tuesday night.)

Soaring inflation and economic opportunities are also high on Flores' priority list. She has touted her support for small businesses and wants to lower taxes and health care costs. She is also anti-abortion and pro-gun rights.

In March, voters elected her as the GOP nominee for the 34th district with 60.5 percent of the vote.

"The goal here is to bring economic opportunities to the district," she said that month. "It's not right when only the elected officials become more successful. What about the people that elected you to be in office? Success needs to be all around."

5. She used to vote Democrat

Flores came from a family of Democrats and voted for Barack Obama in 2008 on the advice of her father.

Her religion and family values drove her to the Republican Party, she said. Flores went to work persuading her relatives to switch parties, then took the same pitch to the Hidalgo County GOP, where she became the Hispanic outreach chair in 2017.

"The people of South Texas have voted Democrat because that's what they've been told to do, not because they really do align with their values," she said. "As soon as we educate them, and we show them the platform, they realize that they are Republican, just like me."

(c)2022 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
From Our Partners