Republicans Score a Rare Victory in McAllen Mayoral Race

Republicans pulled off a rare victory in McAllen, Texas on June 5, 2021.

Traditionally a Democrat stronghold, McAllen fell into Republican hands after a McAllen city commissioner Javier Villalobos defeated rival city commissioner Veronica Vela Whitacre in a runoff election for the city’s mayoral seat.

According to Chris Enloe of The Blaze, “Villalobos reportedly won by just 206 votes.”

“It was a tight one, so I congratulate my opponent,” Villalobos declared. “It was a very well run campaign. But we’re very glad and fortunate that we prevailed.”

One of the bigger stories of the 2020 was former President Donald Trump’s gains in Hispanic-majority border counties that traditionally went Democrat in previous election cycles. This was a sign that perhaps Democrats’ radical open border policies began to spook voters in a region that witnessed firsthand the disastrous effects of a border collapse. 

Enloe provided some context to Hidalgo County’s demographics:

Even more significant, McAllen is about 85% Hispanic, and Hidalgo County, in which McAllen is located, has historically voted for Democratic candidates by significant margins in presidential elections.

In fact, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by more than 40% in 2016, while Barack Obama topped Mitt Romney by more than 40% in 2012 and John McCain by nearly 40% in 2008. Hidalgo County voters even voted for John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000 over George W. Bush, despite Bush having served as governor of Texas. The last time a Republican won Hidalgo County was in 1972.

Meanwhile, Trump lost to Joe Biden by less than 20%, the smallest margin in the county since 2004, signaling a shift in voter sentiment at the border.

Democrat congressman Henry Cuellar provided some insight as to why border Hispanics gravitated towards Trump:

Aside from Hispanic heritage, most of the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas have similar demographics to Trump’s strongholds in rural communities across the country. It’s homogenous, deeply religious, pensively patriotic, socially conservative, and it’s hurting economically.

Cuellar is a Blue Dog Democrat who is generally sensitive towards immigration issues and is not as gung-ho about the cultural Left’s latest projects.

Democrat congressman Vicente Gonzalez, who represents Texas’ 15th congressional district which includes McAllen, echoed Cuellar’s statements.

“Hispanics, especially Mexican Americans, they like this machismo, bravado, lucha libre-style politics — it’s like all-star wrestling, Trump style,” Gonzalez observed. “It fits perfectly with the South Texas, Tejano person.”

In many respects, Tejano voters resemble the white-working class voters that Trump has picked up in the Midwest and Appalachia. On top of that, they’re witnessing firsthand the perils of having an open border with Mexico, a veritable narco state, which makes them realize that voting for Democrats is not in their interest. 

The strong nationalism of these Hispanic voters and their shared experience of dealing with a border that is getting out of control makes them receptive to the Republican Party’s new populist messaging. GOP operatives should take note and adjust their messaging accordingly.