Republican Mayra Flores won tonight’s CD34 special election (Lean R) with 51% of the vote. She will serve the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela’s (D-Brownsville) term and will head to the general election as an incumbent. Flores won the Republican nomination for CD34 in March with 60% of the vote and faces U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzales (D-McAllen), who currently represents CD15.
Former Cameron Co. Comm. Dan Sanchez (D) finished second with 43% of the vote. The other two candidates in the race combined for 6%. Turnout was 7.3% of registered voters.
Encouraging signs for Flores emerged as soon as Cameron Co., by far the largest in the district, reported its early vote totals. Sanchez received 47% of the early vote there, narrowly finishing ahead of Flores’s 45%. Based on our analysis, we found 5,323 Democratic primary voters on the county’s early voting rosters and a 2,000-voter advantage over the Republicans. Sanchez finished just 219 votes ahead of Flores, suggesting she was overwhelmingly winning the vote from non-primary voters (more on that later).
Districtwide, Flores won a 47% plurality of the early vote, edging out Sanchez’s 46%, a margin of 249 votes. As we expected, she was stronger among Election Day voters, taking 55% of their vote to Sanchez’s 40%. Flores won the Election Day vote in every county except for Kenedy Co., where Sanchez received 7 votes to her 4 votes. Overall, she won nine of the 11 counties in the district, obtaining a majority vote in seven of them.
Flores received 78% of the vote from the four northernmost counties in the district: Bee (75%-21%), DeWitt (82%-11%), Goliad (80%-15%) and Gonzales (82%-10%). These counties by themselves provided her path to a majority vote districtwide, as she carried the rest of the district by a 48%-46% margin, which would have meant a runoff. Her margins were even higher among Election Day voters: 82%-14% in Bee Co., 87%-8% in DeWitt Co., 82%-14% in Goliad Co., and 87%-7% in Gonzales Co.
Those four counties will not be in the district going forward. This special election was waged in the district as it has been configured for a decade. The general election will be run under the map drawn by the Legislature last year. It includes all of Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy Cos. and a portion of Hidalgo Co. Flores carried those counties by 265 votes and received 47.6% of the vote there. We have previously rated the general election as Likely Democrat, but we will revisit on the basis of this election.
Going back to our analysis of the early voting rosters, we found just over 7K people had also voted in the Democratic primary districtwide compared to just over 5K Republican primary voters. Assuming partisan fidelity among those voters, the two Democrats combined received 1K early votes from non-primary voters. The two Republicans received about 2,700 early votes from non-primary voters. In our pre-election analysis, we said, “Flores would thus need a 1,500-net vote advantage among non-primary early voters … to move ahead of Sanchez.” She got 1,700.
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