AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In one of Texas’ most competitive congressional races, Democrat Michelle Vallejo and Republican Monica De La Cruz could not be more different in their messaging to gain the Latino vote.
Previously a typical Democratic district, CD-15 was redrawn and now leans more Republican, giving Democrats a more challenging role in keeping the district. Prior to redistricting, former President Trump lost the district, but as the new lines are now, he would have won by 2.8 points.
In 2020, conservative De La Cruz came within 3 percentage points of unseating incumbent Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, who is now running in CD-34, where the lines are more favorable to Democrats.
Voters in the heavily Hispanic district will choose between two candidates who are sticking strongly on their party’s platform: Vallejo, representing the liberal wing of the Democratic party whereas De La Cruz has aligned herself as Trump-affiliated Republican.
De La Cruz’s overall message highlights the new wave of Republicans that taps into conservative Christian values many Latino families in South Texas hold. She supports addressing issues on border-security, abortion, and inflation.
“Our campaign is built around what South Texas stands for. We love God, not government. We love our families, and we love our faith” De La Cruz said. “What I’m hearing from voters up and down the district is that they’re worried about inflation, and the cost of goods and services, and border security.”
Vallejo highlights the progressive side of the Democratic party and has been vocal on issues like affordable healthcare for all, abortion access, and resources for asylum seekers.
Just about the only place of agreement between the candidates is on the importance of this race.
If elected, De La Cruz said her win “will lead in taking back the House” for Republicans, who are already expected to take back the currently Democratic-controlled chamber.
“It’s so important that people understand that this election is critical. And there’s a lot of issues on the ballot” Vallejo said. “We have the power to determine the political landscape, not just of our home, but of this entire country, because it comes down to determining the house majority.”
Recent polling shows the two candidates tied in the polls at 45%.
On the topic of abortion — which Democrats have been optimistic of the topic being a sleeping giant of the midterms — Vallejo is targeting her opponent for not supporting abortion, even in the event of rape or incest, according to De La Cruz’s campaign website.
On the topic of border security, De La Cruz favors bringing back the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires certain asylum seekers to Mexico to wait through the duration of their cases pending in the U.S. immigration court system.
According to Vallejo’s campaign website, she wants to make the asylum process more efficient by investing in border infrastructure and refining enforcement practices to become more conscious of humanitarian needs.
On the topic of energy — De La Cruz supports oil and gas jobs. Vallejo believes in major investments in clean and renewable energy so costs can be lowered and jobs can be created for Texans.
UT-RGV political science professor, Alvaro Corral, said although competitive, he thinks the race is leaning slightly Republican due to redistricting.
“It’s going to be very close,” Corral said. “Political polarization has come to the valley.”
Corral notes the Democratic Party is going through a transition period in South Texas and Republicans are using that to their advantage.
“On the one hand, [South Texas] is often called, like this bastion for the Democrats. But frankly, …it was a kind of moderate bastion, right,” he said. “I think that’s kind of posed the problem for the Democratic party a little bit. Like, what does it mean to have incredibly loyal supporters, but who aren’t necessarily all that liberal?”
In regards to their messaging, both candidates are focusing on issues that surround the economy and inflation and branching out to secondary issues central to their bases to mobilize votes
Similar to the candidates, Corral said this is a key race, even to voters outside of this district.
“It contributes to what’s going to happen in Congress,” Corral said. “And it contributes to the amount of women who sit in Congress.”
Currently, women occupy 147 out of the 535 seats available in Congress, which is 27.5%.
Monica Madden will have a full report on this race at 6 p.m. on KXAN News.