Winning Republican mayoral candidates ran on an anti-crime platform.
NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE R epublicans swept key races for mayor in Texas on Saturday, setting back Democratic hopes that the state’s urban areas will deliver statewide majorities for them in the future. Most shocking: In McAllen, Texas, a border city of 150,000 people of which 85 percent are Hispanic, Republicans elected their first mayor since 1997.
Other cities with strong Hispanic populations also elected Republicans to replace retiring mayors. Fort Worth is the twelfth-largest city in the country and has more than 1 million people. Only a third of them are Anglo. But 37-year-old Republican Mattie Parker easily defeated Democrat Deborah Peoples, becoming the youngest mayor of a major Texas city.
The race was ostensibly nonpartisan, but the divisions were clear.
“We’ve never had a race that was this partisan,” Kenneth Barr, the former Democratic mayor of Fort Worth, told Politico. “This particular election has moved as far in the partisan direction as any we’ve ever had.”
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Voters also elected Republican Jim Ross as mayor of Arlington, a suburb of 400,000 people that borders Fort Worth and is only 39 percent Anglo. Ross, a former Arlington police officer, was endorsed by several police associations who liked his anti-crime platform. He defeated Michael Glaspie, a former city-council member who was endorsed by the Dallas Morning News and leading Democratic politicians.
But it was the victory of Javier Villalobos in the overwhelmingly Democratic Rio Grande Valley bordering Mexico that shook political observers.
Villalobos, a former chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party, defeated Democrat Veronica Vega Whitacre, a fellow McAllen city council member, to become mayor. He campaigned as a conservative and said he wanted to cut water and sewage fees. He called for compassion for undocumented migrants but said the safety of local citizens had to be the first concern. His supporters questioned Whitacre’s wooly-headed claim that if migrants were flowing the other way, toward Mexico, they would be treated with as much compassion by Mexican authorities.
Whitacre’s loss was only the latest sign for Democrats that the Rio Grande Valley is slipping away from them. Biden won the region by 15 points last November, a far cry from Hillary Clinton’s 39-point margin in 2016. At the same time, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez won reelection by only 51 percent to 48 percent over Republican Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez in a district Democrats always carry.
“Democrats have a big problem in Texas,” Rio Grande Valley congressman Filemon Vela told the Texas Tribune in January, shortly after he became vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “For the first time in generations, or maybe ever, we lost . . . South Texas counties with significant Hispanic populations,” he said. “And we are going to have to . . . wrap our arms around exactly why that happened. It may be a difficult issue to reconcile.”
National progressive groups are also sounding the alarm, noting that exit polls show Donald Trump won 32 percent of Hispanic voters last November, improving on his showing in 2016.
Three major Democratic interest groups have just released a study that the New York Times summarized as follows: “The party is at risk of losing ground with Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters unless it does a better job presenting an economic agenda and countering Republican efforts to spread misinformation and tie all Democratic candidates to the far left.” The report claims that “the opposition latched on to G.O.P. talking points, suggesting our candidates would ‘burn down your house and take away the police.’”
But the report also admits that criticism of the Left’s stance on crime worked.
Economic issues and immigration also mattered. Nuestro PAC, a national Democratic super PAC that targets Hispanic voters, issued a report in March that found the national Democrats’ approach “does not work in the Valley.”
“We’ve all said Latinos aren’t a monolith, but in the Valley in particular, there’s three major employers,” Nuestro PAC’s Chuck Rocha told the Texas Tribune. “There’s border security, there’s the local government, and there’s oil and gas, and all of those folks don’t line up with the value set that woke brown consultants or woke white consultants in New York or D.C. are selling as a national narrative to these Democrats.” So it’s no surprise that Rio Grande congressmen Henry Cuellar and Gonzalez have called on President Biden to alter his stance on the border and rescind his executive order halting fracking on federal lands.
“The results in South Texas show that the shift among Hispanics is more than just a response to the personal brand of Donald Trump,” Washington Post columnist and election-data expert Henry Olsen told me. “The Left’s emphasis on issues and language that do not support the working-class aspirations of people regardless of their ethnicity is hurting them. Biden wants to placate both the hard Left and party moderates and keep everyone in his coalition. But there’s no way to [quell] the tension between the two wings. Some on one side or the other will jump ship.”
Joe Biden’s default behavior since he became a senator nearly 50 years ago is to make a deal with everyone and try to keep all happy. But his major moves tilt to the far left, such as appointing critical-race-theory activists to high Justice Department positions, killing the Keystone Pipeline, dropping sanctions on Russian’s Nord Stream pipeline, and unleashing the forces of consumer-goods inflation. No one should be surprised that nearly one in five Democrats now tell pollsters that Biden’s spending binges are too much for them.
The revolt of some centrist Democrats is small so far, and it remains largely ignored by the corporate media. But in places like Texas — with its varied populations of aspirational minorities — we can now see through a smudged political window how a potentially big problem for Democrats is getting bigger as the 2022 midterm elections approach.
Editor’s note: This article originally stated that McAllen, Texas had just elected its first Republican mayor. It is the city’s first Republican mayor since 1997.