South Texas: the battleground region you need to watch

South Texas Candidates
CD-15 is one of the most competitive races in Texas and America
  • Why it matters: South Texas is a key swing region in the 2022 election
  • Democrats currently hold seats, but redistricting created opportunities for Republicans

After the 2020 election, national media focused on a narrative of Latinos in South Texas turning out in droves for Donald Trump - but the narrative wasn’t entirely accurate. In reality, Joe Biden received more votes than any other presidential candidate in recent history in the region netting more than 233,000 in the three biggest counties. That’s compared to Hillary Clinton’s 220,000 in the same areas.

But while Biden received more total votes in the region, Republicans were able to improve their haul from 91,000 to 164,000 over the same period of time. So Democrats got more votes - but Republicans improved their percentage (data via our 2020 turnout tracker).

The 2020 surge in turnout and 2021 redistricting has all eyes on South Texas in 2022.

South Texas matters because it’s a key swing region for the midterm election - and one thing we know is that midterm elections are base voter elections. And with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, we’re looking for higher than average Democratic turnout this year which could provide a much-needed boost.

South Texas races we’re watching:

  • Attorney General
  • Congressional District 15, 28, and 34
  • State Senate District 27 (Brownsville, Harlingen)
  • Texas House District 38 (Brownsville, Harlingen)

All maps and data listed below were taken from the Texas Tribune redistricting tracker.

Attorney General - Democratic nominee Rochelle Garza. She’s a native of South Texas, and that was a significant home field advantage in the primary and runoff elections in 2022, where she handily won an outright majority in Cameron, Hidalgo, and Webb counties in a three-way primary, and runoff results show she continued to dominate in the region. She’ll need to run up the score in the general election and might even have a reverse-coattail effect of helping out candidates up the ballot like Beto O’Rourke and Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor, Mike Collier. Her opponent, the twice-indicted incumbent, Attorney General Ken Paxton, is already running scared and for good reason: polls show the race is a dead heat.

Congressional District 15 - Democratic nominee Michelle Vallejo. This is the one, folks - it is the most competitive seat in Texas and it’s an open seat. After redistricting, this is a district that would have voted 50.9% for Trump and 48.1% for Biden. But after a truly awful year for Trump and a remarkable summer for Joe Biden, things seem to be looking good for Democratic nominee Michelle Vallejo, who ran in a crowded primary and had a late runoff election whereas her Republican opponent did not. What this means is that Vallejo has some financial catching up to do - if you’re looking at which race to donate to in Texas, this is the one. This is the most important congressional seat in Texas and one of the most important in the country. Vallejo faces Republican Monica De La Cruz, who came three points away from winning the seat in 2020. More coverage on this match-up can be found here.

Congressional District 28 - Democratic nominee Henry Cuellar. We’ll admit that we’re not fans of the guy. He’s anti-abortion and sides with Republicans more than any other Democrat. He barely survived a competitive primary and runoff season. But along with the advantage of incumbency, new district lines have made the 28th slightly more Democratic - it gave Biden a 4.4% edge in 2020 and would give the president a 7% edge today. This district runs from San Antonio to Laredo, and along the border. Even with after the FBI searched his home and office, Cuellar will likely be fine in 2022.