MCALLEN, Texas — It’s 5 p.m. and motorists can hear semi-trucks laden with avocados, tomatoes and other produce slowly rumble past the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge linking Mexico to Texas Voice.
Border traffic is a way of life in Hidalgo County, like the butterflies that dominate the Rio Grande Valley landscape. In the race for the redrawn 15th congressional district, Democrat Michelle Vallejo has seized on the need to speed up and facilitate business traffic between the two countries in a bid to win the battle against her Republican opponent Monica Derek. La Cruz is gaining traction in an uphill battle.
“We need to make the most of the fact that we are this trade zone, this trade zone, next to Mexico, our largest trading partner,” Vallejo said in an interview in the region. “There are a lot of people in our community that could benefit from this. “
Vallejo hopes that message will break through in the final days before the election. The vacant seat is in southern Texas, once dominated by Democrats, where Republicans have made gains among Hispanic voters by slamming inflation and messages such as crime and drugs linked to illegal immigration. By turning to economic progress under a Biden administration — including border trade — Democrats are trying to reduce their expected losses in midterm elections in which their House majority is threatened.
Vallejo faces an even tougher fight in the 15th district after the Republican-controlled Texas legislature cut off Democratic-leaning areas during a redistricting. Amy Walter and Sabato’s Crystal Ball’s Cook Political Report rated the district “likely Republican,” and former President Donald Trump will win the new district by three percentage points in 2020. This narrow, serpentine area stretches from the border to San Antonio.
Natasha Altema McNealy, an associate professor of local politics at the University of Texas at Rio Grande, said the only way for Democrats to win that seat and the 34th District, which is adjacent to the state’s southernmost point, is if there are many Voters come out to vote. Valley.
“Without effective mobilization in the Valley, turnout will continue to be low for some Democratic voters,” she said.
James Gerber, professor emeritus of economics at San Diego State University, said that to improve their fortunes, it would be better for Democrats to shift the narrative from a humanitarian defense of immigrants to one that emphasizes the business interests of a prosperous border people serve.
“It’s better to make an economic argument,” he said.
Improving trade relations and infrastructure is a success story, said Gerber, who has spent decades researching and studying border trade economics and politics.
Trade, transportation and utilities account for almost one in five jobs in McAllen, Texas’ major city, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 667,000 trucks traveled north on the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge last fiscal year, according to the Texas Comptroller.
Republicans blame the administration’s lax border policies for immigration and more drug and crime increases. Last April, the governor of Texas. Greg Abbott (R) implemented more thorough inspections at southern ports of entry to stem the flow of migrants. He relented after trucking companies complained that inspection delays sometimes forced trucks to wait more than six hours to cross the border. Republicans, however, continued their line of attack that “drugs are pouring into the United States from the southern border.”
Gerber said the pressure highlighted the “fragile” balance of border checks and expedited processing. Republicans, on the other hand, argue that the issue has a short shelf life and won’t help Vallejo amid high gasoline, food and general inflation.
“It’s the truckers, the drivers, the companies and the producers who are the most angry,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a partner at Steinhauser Strategies, an Austin-based Republican political consulting firm. He said Vallejo remains There are “some headwinds” because “the pressure of higher prices is generally felt”.
Vallejo has been endorsed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ran with her Sunday and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and backed many of their policies, such as Medicare for All and a $15 federal minimum wage. Her border policy includes a nod to leftists and business interests, arguing that smoother border movement helps asylum seekers and big oil rigs.
The newcomer to congressional politics also runs a local “pulga,” or flea market, that features small imported art and other Mexican goods that depend on efficient trade routes.
“Our agricultural suppliers rely heavily on produce from Mexico,” she said. “When those stopped due to increased inspections, those families had nothing to sell for a week or two, sometimes three weeks.”
Dela Cruz, who grew up in Brownsville’s adjacent congressional district, said drugs and criminals are crossing the border into the United States in uncontrolled numbers. She has the backing of Trump, who has made illegal immigration and border control a cornerstone of his political campaign.
Dela Cruz, her campaign staff and Hidalgo County Republican leaders declined to comment, despite repeated efforts by reporters to reach them via email, phone calls and visits to campaign and party headquarters.
According to her website, her main economic message is to reduce inflation and ensure that “ranchers and farmers are compensated for the damage they have suffered as a result of illegal immigrant trafficking.”
Dela Cruz had raised $4.3 million as of October. On the 19th, there was nearly $600,000 in cash on hand in the final days of the campaign, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. That dwarfs Vallejo’s $1.9 million and $160,000 in cash. Roughly $3 million in outside spending on the campaign is also very favorable for Dela Cruz, a superpower aligned with House GOP leaders, according to filings by the Federal Election Commission, led by the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund. Political Action Committee.
Instead of investing in the Vallejo campaign, the national Democratic campaign group is using the funds for contests in neighboring districts where they see the party as more competitive.
Still, Ivan Duran Puente, Vallejo’s volunteer field organizer, said he wasn’t concerned about the lack of funds to pay for the ads.
“Advertising doesn’t vote,” he said. “South Texans are at a crossroads over who they want to represent in Congress.”
Kenneth P. Doyle of Washington also contributed to this story.
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