Mayra Flores, a Republican from Cameron County vying for the congressional seat soon to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, is looking ahead to the 2022 election with bipartisanship in mind.
Flores announced her campaign for the 34th congressional district in February, one month prior to Vela’s, D-Brownsville, announcement in March that he would not be seeking reelection. The district covers 11 counties, including Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy.
She was born in Burgos, Tamaulipas and brought to the U.S. when she was 6 years old by her parents, who labored as migrant workers.
“We did move a lot alongside my parents,” Flores said, adding, “I worked in the cotton fields at the age of 13. I did not want to do that for the rest of my life.”
Flores graduated from San Benito High School in 2004 and married in 2005. As a mother, she attended college and later graduated as a respiratory care practitioner in 2014.
Shortly after, she started working with the elderly in Cameron County, which led to observations that later inspired political positions.
“Their [government] paycheck is still the same. They’re getting the same amount of paycheck every single month, yet everything else is more expensive,” she said.
This prompted her to get acquainted with the community and question its leadership.
“We have voted Democrat for so long and we haven’t seen the changes. And it’s all about accountability, that’s what I believe,” Flores said.
Economic development, employment, elderly care, and immigration are some of the most pressing issues for Flores who is already working to address them with local leaders during her campaign.
“Why is there so much unemployment here? Why is there poor economic growth here in South Texas?” Flores said. “There’s not that many good paying jobs. Either you get in law enforcement or you go to school.”
Cameron County received national attention after Elon Musk decided to build and launch his rockets in the region, but that came with concerns of displacement in 2019 and, most recently, concerns about a detainment.
Flores said she supports the investment and job opportunities created by Musk’s work, but said the concerns must be addressed.
“I want people to come here and invest here. We’re worth it,” Flores said.
Over the course of the year, she’s met with local leaders, block-walked, and participated in events to introduce herself to the community and learn about the improvements needed.
“I want to find out what is stopping businesses from coming here,” Flores said. “Are there restrictions stopping them? Do we need to remove some of these restrictions so more companies with better paying jobs come here to South Texas?”
Flores’ campaign website states she is pro-life, pro-second amendment, and pro-law enforcement. While these are traditional Republican values, her father successfully encouraged her to vote for Obama in 2008, Flores said.
“I always tell my dad, ‘you pretty much raised me as a Republican you just didn’t know it,’” she said.
Flores leans on her background as a daughter of immigrant parents and a conservative ideological core to navigate her through the divisive nature of the current border politics.
“I understand people want to come here to the United States. I get it. I’m an immigrant and I was blessed to come here legally,” Flores, a naturalized citizen, said.
She favors enhancing border security while creating more legal pathways to citizenship.
Despite the polarizing rhetoric, Flores hopes to strike a bipartisan tone.
“It should be bipartisan. We should all work together in securing our border and bettering our legal immigration system and encouraging people to come here legally,” she said.
Though she has an established party, Flores said she understands the needs exceed political lines.
“At the end of the day, I’m here to serve all people, Democrats and Republicans,” she added. “I don’t care what their political affiliation is, I want a better future for all children of South Texas.”