McALLEN — Hoping to make further inroads with Rio Grande Valley voters, the Republican National Committee opened a Hispanic community center here on Tuesday, a show of confidence among Republican leaders that they could be successful in flipping seats during the 2022 midterm elections.
RNC co-chair Tommy Hicks Jr. was on hand to inaugurate the new Republican base, the first RNC office in the Rio Grande Valley.
“There’s momentum here right now but also we think it’s critical that we start building relationships right here, right now, today in McAllen, well in advance of the 2022 midterms which we think we’re going to have a great result,” Hicks said of the move to establish an office in McAllen. “We have to win back the House, we have to win back the Senate — take back power from Washington D.C. and give it back to the American people.”
Hicks said their efforts would include registering voters and having volunteers go into the communities and speak with residents about what they stand for.
Republicans have viewed South Texas as a viable battleground following the underperformance of President Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates during the 2020 election.
Hicks also pointed to the latest McAllen mayoral race in which former Hidalgo County GOP Chair Javier Villalobos was elected to office.
Further raising their hopes are the proposed redistricting maps unveiled last month. Among the proposed changes, the maps would make District 15, currently held by U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, more competitive.
Faced with the prospect of the changes, Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said he would consider running for neighboring District 34 if those maps became final.
Hicks cited policies from the Biden Administration and Democratic leaders in Congress for higher turnout among Republicans in the region.
“Democrat policies have failed all American people but especially the American people right here on the border,” Hicks said, pointing to the large number of asylum seekers encountered at the border this year.
“It’s unsafe here right now,” Hicks said. “I think people feel it in their communities, they want to keep their kids safe and that’s a big issue for Americans.”
Villalobos, who kicked off the event Tuesday, said he disagreed with the characterization of McAllen as “unsafe.”
“As far as the region being unsafe, I totally disagree,” Villalobos said over the phone Tuesday evening. “McAllen was ranked the number 7th safest city which means even around the area, we are good and that’s one of the things we’re trying to get rid of — the perception that McAllen is not safe.”
“McAllen is very safe,” he added. “We have a great police department, we have a great, great staff, first responders, we have whatever we need to protect our residents.”
What he did agree with, though, was the need for competition in the area between the two parties.
“I’m not pushing for one or the other, what I’m saying is we need either party to compete,” Villalobos said.
The mayor said as much during the news conference, telling the crowd his position was non-partisan but also rejoicing in the RNC’s presence in the city.
“You all are going to make Hidalgo County red,” Villalobos said to cheers. “I’m very happy. This is something that we’ve never had before and I’m so glad to be part of it.”