Texas’s 34th congressional district is a new one, created in the southeastern corner of the state after the 2010 census, and includes Gonzales, Dewitt, Goliad, Bee, San Patricio, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Kenedy, Willacy, Cameron, and Hidalgo counties. It goes around, but does not include, Corpus Christi, and it scores a D+3 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index. Democrat Filemon Vela currently represents the district, and census data indicates the district is 82 percent Hispanic.
Republicans do have a candidate on the ballot (the filing deadline was December 9), Larry Smith, a 37-year-old Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Smith says he has put about 3,700 miles on his truck as he traversed the district. Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in Texas have the option of collecting 500 signatures or paying $3,125 to qualify for the ballot; Smith said collecting the signatures was an important step to symbolize fiscal responsibility, telling the Brownsville Herald, “You don’t just dump $3,000 on bureaucracy.”
Smith, left, with Greg Abbott, the attorney general of Texas and a candidate for governor this year.
Smith is guaranteed to face a tough task in the fundraising battle in 2014, as incumbent Democrat Vela’s personal wealth is estimated to be between $1.2 million and $15 million.