MCALLEN, Texas — It’s 5 p.m. and drivers can hear semi-trucks carrying avocados, tomatoes and other produce idling along the Farr-Reynosa International Bridge that connects Mexico and Texas.
Border traffic is as much a way of life in Hidalgo County as the butterflies that dot the landscape of the Rio Grande Valley. In the race for the rerawn 15th congressional district, the Democrat Michelle Vallejo, GOP with the rival Monica de la Cruz to get the international fight, was caught on the need to speed up and increase the commercial traffic between the two countries.
Vallejo said in an interview in the district, “We have to raise the fact that this trade region, this trade zone, is our biggest trade partner after Mexico.” “There are a lot of people in our community who could benefit.”
Vallejo hopes to get a message out in the final days before the election. The open seat is in once-Democratic-dominated South Texas, where Republicans have made inroads with Hispanic voters over inflation and drug-related issues linked to illegal immigration. Under the Biden administration — including on border trade — Democrats are trying to play down expected losses in the midterm elections, where much of their house is at stake.
Vallejo faces an uphill battle in the 15th district after the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature cut Democratic-leaning seats during redistricting. The Cook Politics Report with Amy Walters and the Sabato Crystal Ball rated the district as “likely Republican,” and former President Donald Trump would win the newly redistricted district by three percentage points in 2020. Antonio.
Natasha Altema McNally, a politics professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande, said the only way Democrats could win that seat and District 34, which includes the southern tip of the state, is if more voters turn out. Valley.
“Without effective campaigning here in the Valley, voter turnout for the Democratic segment will continue to be low,” she said.
To improve their fortunes, Democrats would be better served by shifting the narrative from the humanitarian protections of immigration to the trade benefits of a prosperous border, said James Gerber, professor emeritus of economics at San Diego State University.
“It’s better to make an economic argument,” he said.
Gerber, who has spent decades studying and researching the economics and politics of border trade, says improving trade relations and infrastructure is a winning narrative.
In McAllen, Texas — the capital city in the district — trade, transportation and utilities account for nearly one in five jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 667,000 trucks traveled northbound over the Farr-Reynosa International Bridge last fiscal year, according to the Texas Comptroller.
Republicans blame the administration for lax border policies that have led to illegal immigration crossings and an increase in drugs and crime. Last April, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) implemented more thorough inspections at southern ports of entry to stem the flow of immigrants. He later relented after trucking companies complained about delayed inspections of trucks that forced them to wait more than six hours to cross the border. Nevertheless, Republicans continue their attack line that “drugs are flowing” from the South Coast to America.
That tension has highlighted a “broken” balance between inspections and expedited processing at the border, Gerber said. Republicans, on the other hand, argue that the issue is short-lived and will not help Vallejo when gas, food and general inflation are high.
“The crazy people were truckers, drivers, companies and manufacturers more than anyone else,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a partner at Austin-based GOP political consulting firm Steinhauser Strategies. Vallejo still has “some headwinds” because “people generally feel like they’re overpriced.”
Vallejo was supported by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who campaigned with her Sunday, and many of their policies, such as Medicare for All and the $15 minimum federal government. Her wage-bound policy includes favoring both leftists and businesses.
The congressional political newcomer also runs the local “pulga,” or flea market, which relies on a brisk trade in small artworks and other products from Mexico.
“Our suppliers are dependent on products from Mexico,” she said. When those stops happened for those extra checks, those families had nothing to sell for a week or two weeks, sometimes three weeks.
De la Cruz, who grew up in the nearby congressional district of Brownsville, said drugs and criminals are crossing the U.S. border more and more unchecked. She has been endorsed by Trump, who has made illegal immigration and border control a cornerstone of his political campaigns.
De la Cruz, her campaign staff and Hidalgo County GOP leaders declined to comment, despite a reporter’s efforts via email, phone and a visit to campaign and party headquarters.
Her main economic message is to reduce inflation and ensure that “breeders and farmers get their money back for the proven damage caused by the illegal immigration traffic.”
De la Cruz had raised $4.3 million as of Oct. 19 and had nearly $600,000 in cash on hand for the final days of the campaign, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. That brings Vallejo’s total to $1.9 million with $160,000 in cash. According to FEC filings, the super political action committee, which is run by the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund, aligned with House GOP leaders, spent $3 million in the race overwhelmingly in favor of de la Cruz.
National Democratic campaign groups have not invested in Vallejo’s campaign and have instead directed money to races in neighboring districts where they believe the party is more competitive.
Still, Vallejo volunteer field organizer Ivan Duran Puente said he’s not worried about the lack of money for advertising.
“Ads don’t vote,” he said. “South Texas is at a crossroads over who it wants to represent them in Congress.”
For this story, Kenneth P. Doyle contributed.
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