HARLINGEN — Mayra Flores, newly elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, vows to become the voice of the people across deep South Texas’ District 34.
Calling herself a model of the American dream, she became the first Mexican-born woman to win a congressional seat and the first Republican in more than 150 years to represent District 34, now stretching from Brownsville and Harlingen to the brushlands south of Corpus Christi.
“I felt we didn’t have a voice in Washington,” she said during an interview, pointing to past U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned the post in March to take a job as a lobbyist. “I felt they weren’t interested in this area.”
Across the country, Flores is being portrayed as a Republican sweeping into office in the Democratic stronghold of the Rio Grande Valley, where the GOP has been making big inroads among Mexican-Americans in the last few years.
After her victory, Flores’ campaign tweeted, “The Red Tsunami is here!”
Carrying her slogan “God, family, country,” she pulled 50.9 percent of the vote, defeating leading Democrat Dan Sanchez, an attorney and former Cameron County commissioner who drew 43.3 percent in Tuesday’s special election called to fill Vela’s term, expiring in January.
“It’s about putting people before politics,” Flores said. “I think the people in District 34 just want a voice in Washington. They feel completely abandoned and taken for granted. We need to put the people we represent first. We serve the people.”
In November’s general election, under District 34’s newly drawn boundary lines, Flores faces U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, an attorney switching his seat from the 15th congressional district, where he first won election in 2017.
During her campaign, Flores drew support amid the national economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic’s economic slowdown.
“District 34 is hurting tremendously because of the economy, especially the elderly on fixed incomes — gasoline, groceries, medication, health care,” she said. “We don’t want a hand-out. We believe in hard work. But the policies of the Biden administration are destroying the economy.”
Flores’ platform focuses on “fortifying our legal immigration system, securing our borders, lowering the costs of healthcare, lowering taxes, promoting small businesses and less government,” her website states. “She is pro-life, pro-second amendment and pro-law enforcement.”
On the campaign trail, Flores weaved the fabric of the American dream into her life’s story.
With her father’s help, she was 6 when she left her home in Burgos, Mexico, about 150 miles south of Reynosa, to come to the United States.
By the time she was 13, she was working with her parents in the Texas Panhandle’s dusty cotton fields, learning to work hard to help pay for her school supplies and clothes.
“I worked along with my parents in the cotton fields, allowing me to get an education,” she said.
In 2004, she graduated from San Benito High School.
Ten years later, she became a respiratory care practitioner.
In 2019, she graduated from South Texas College with a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership.
‘More everyday Americans’
Now, Flores is working as a respiratory care practitioner for a home-health agency.
“We need more plumbers, teachers, everyday Americans to start running our country,” she said. “We understand the struggle. We understand how it is to work paycheck to paycheck.”
Flores has served as the Hidalgo County Republican Party’s Hispanic Outreach chairwoman, working to draw more voters.
In Harlingen, she and her husband, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, are raising four children.