McAllen, TX — 5 p.m. Drivers can hear semi-trucks laden with avocados, tomatoes, and other produce nudge over the Reynosa International Bridge, which connects Mexico and Texas.
Border traffic, like the butterflies that dominate the landscape of the Rio Grande Valley, is a way of life in Hidalgo County. In the race for the reorganized 15th congressional district, Democrat Michel Vallejo sought to boost commercial traffic between the two countries to gain traction in an uphill battle against Republican opponent Monica de la Cruz. seized the need to promote and promote
“We have to make the most of this trading zone, this trading zone and the fact that we are right next to Mexico, our biggest trading partner,” Vallejo said in an interview in the district. . “There are many people in our community who could benefit.”
Vallejo hopes that message will seep through in the final days before the election. The vacant seat is in the once Democratic-dominated South Texas, where Republicans are infiltrating Hispanic voters with messages about drugs linked to inflation, crime and illegal immigration. By pivoting on economic developments under the Biden administration, including border commerce, Democrats are trying to soften their expected defeat in the midterm elections, which are at stake in the House majority.
Vallejo faces a tougher battle in the 15th District after the Republican-dominated Texas legislature excluded Democratic-leaning areas during redistricting. The Cook Political Report by Amy Walter and Sabbath’s Crystal Ball rates the district as “likely Republican,” and former President Donald Trump said the newly drawn district in 2020 would have won by three percentage points. Antonio.
Natasha Ultema McNeely, associate professor of political science at the local University of Texas at the Rio Grande, said the only way Democrats could win that seat, and the neighboring 34th district, which includes the state’s southernmost district, would be if many voters is to vote. Valley.
“Without effective mobilization here in the Valley, turnout for the Democratic segment of the electorate will continue to decline,” she said.
To improve your fortunes, James Garber, emeritus professor of economics at San Diego State University, suggests changing the narrative to emphasize the commercial interests of a flourishing border, rather than humanitarian advocacy for immigrants. said Democrats would be better served.
“Better have an economic discussion,” he said.
Improving trade ties and infrastructure is a winning story, said Garber, who has spent decades studying and researching the economics and politics of border trade.
Trade, transportation and utilities account for one-fifth of jobs in the district’s main city, McAllen, Texas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 667,000 trucks moved north over the Reynosa International Bridge last fiscal year, according to the Texas Comptroller.
Republicans have accused the administration of lax border policies that have led to an increase in immigrant crossings, drugs and crime. , underwent a more thorough inspection at the southern port of entry. He then relented as trucking companies complained about delays in inspections, sometimes making him wait more than six hours for his truck to cross the border. Nevertheless, Republicans continue their line of attack that “drugs are pouring” into the United States through the southern border.
That tension highlighted a “fragile” balance between inspections and expedited processing at the border, Garber said. It argues that it will not help Vallejo while inflation is high.
“Most of the people who were angry were truckers, drivers, businesses and producers,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a partner at Austin-based Republican political consulting firm Steinhauser Strategies. Told. He said Vallejo still has “some headwinds”.
Vallejo is endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who campaigned on Sunday to support their policies, including Medicare for All and the $15 federal minimum. supports many of the wage. Her border policy includes an endorsement of both left-wing and business interests, and she argues smoother border control will help asylum seekers and big rigs.
Newcomers to parliamentary politics also run local ‘purga’ or flea markets featuring small imported art and other goods from Mexico, which relies on efficient trade routes.
“Our produce vendors rely heavily on Mexican produce,” she said. “When these outages occurred because of increased testing, those families had nothing to sell for a week, two, sometimes three weeks.”
De la Cruz, who grew up in the contiguous congressional district of Brownsville, says drugs and criminals are crossing the border into the United States in uncontrollable numbers. She is endorsed by Trump, who has made illegal immigration and border control the cornerstone of his political campaign.
De la Cruz, her campaign staff, and the Hidalgo County Republican leader declined to comment, but reporters repeatedly tried to contact them via email, phone, campaign and visit to party headquarters.
According to her website, her main economic message is to lower inflation and ensure that “ranchers and farmers are reimbursed for the confirmed damages caused by illegal immigration traffic.”
De la Cruz had raised $4.3 million by October 19 and had nearly $600,000 in cash on hand by the end of the campaign, according to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission. rice field. This dwindles Vallejo’s total of $1.9 million on $160,000 in cash. About $3 million in external spending in this election would also have a significant impact on Dela Cruz, according to his FEC filings led by the Congressional Leadership Fund, an ultra-political action committee aligned with federal Republican congressional committees and House Republican leaders. working to your advantage.
The National Democratic Party’s campaign group has not invested in Vallejo’s campaign, instead directing funds toward elections in neighboring districts that the party believes are more competitive.
Still, Vallejo’s volunteer field organizer Ivan Duran Puente said he wasn’t worried about the lack of advertising dollars.
“Ads don’t vote,” he said. “Southern Texas people are at a crossroads as to who they want to represent in Congress.”
Kenneth P. Doyle of Washington also contributed to this story.
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