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I have always been a champion of the people and of working families of South Texas.
Michelle Vallejo, the Democratic candidate whose 2022 congressional campaign garnered support from progressive powerhouses like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and former President Bill Clinton, is making another run for Texas’ 15th congressional district.
Vallejo announced her intent to run in the November 2024 General Election on Tuesday.
“I am going to be relaunching my campaign for Texas District 15 — very excited to be jumping in with the support and encouragement of my community,” Vallejo said during an exclusive interview with The Monitor, ahead of the official announcement.
Vallejo will be challenging Monica De La Cruz, the right-wing Republican candidate whose November 2022 win flipped the District 15 seat red for the first time in a century.
De La Cruz won the election with just over 53% of the votes in a district whose lines had recently been redrawn after the 2020 Census.
Dubbed the “fajita strip” after the redistricting, the map of District 15 outlines a skinny ribbon of counties stretching from the banks of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo County to the northern most corner of Guadalupe County, home of Seguin.
The district’s largest cities include San Antonio and McAllen, which typically vote blue.
But the redistricting surgically excised other Democratic-leaning areas like Duval and Jim Hogg counties, as well as portions of Guadalupe County, while expanding to add in the whole of Wilson and Live Oak counties, which lean solidly red.
Vallejo won almost 45% of the votes for District 15 — including a majority of the Hidalgo County electorate.
The race had been close, with Vallejo falling short by less than 8.5% overall.
Vallejo says De La Cruz’s first six months in office show she is not adequately representing the interests of her South Texas constituents.
“We really need someone who is a champion for the people and working families of South Texas in Congress. And it is very clear that Monica De La Cruz is not that person,” Vallejo said.
“I mean, she is falling lock and step with the far-right extremist part of the Republican Party. And while she may have been able to run away from a debate, she cannot run away from her voting record,” she added.
Vallejo was referring to De La Cruz’s unwillingness to debate her in the leadup to Election Day last fall.
Instead, De La Cruz’s campaign appearances cleaved closely with those of two other Rio Grande Valley women, dubbed by pundits as “the triple threat,” who were seeking to upend the Valley’s political landscape.
We really need someone who is a champion for the people and working families of South Texas in Congress. And it is very clear that Monica De La Cruz is not that person.
Those women were Mayra Flores — who briefly held the District 34 seat when she won a June 2022 special election to fill the unexpired term left when former U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela retired — and Cassy Garcia, who ran for the District 28 seat.
Ultimately, however, the triple threat fizzled when only De La Cruz emerged victorious on election night.
And for Vallejo, their flashy promises to flip the Valley were nothing more that grandstanding rooted in false assumptions about the region’s political winds.
“I really do think that’s a political talking point to try to get more money — more outside money — poured into our region,” Vallejo said.
For her, it’s about empowering voters who may feel increasingly disenfranchised.
“It’s very important that the Latino vote is heard and seen, not just in our district in the state of Texas, but across the country,” Vallejo said, adding that she “firmly believe(s) that democracy is only as strong as how hard we’re willing to fight for it.”
“We’re ready to put up that fight,” Vallejo said.
To that end, the candidate will be focusing on a lot of the same issues that were the heart of her campaign in 2022.
She described one of her top priorities as focusing on increasing access to safe, affordable health care — particularly for those vulnerable populations who need a helping hand.
“We need to expand Medicare coverage and make sure that our abuelitos are being protected. And as people age, they know they are going to have the care that they need so they don’t end up in a complicated healthcare situation,” Vallejo said.
Vallejo cited her own family’s experience with inadequate access to healthcare as the reason why it’s so important to her.
Her mother, who had multiple sclerosis, was forced to seek medical care across the border in Mexico. She suffered with the disease for 15 years before dying at age 46, Vallejo said.
“This is the reality for many families and many folks are just one trip to the hospital away from bankruptcy,” she said.
Her other top priority is to fight for the rights of small businesses owners and spur economic development.
Far too often, Valley residents are forced to leave the region to receive quality job training and wind up not coming back because they can’t find high-enough paying jobs here. The phenomenon has widely been referred to as “brain drain.”
Vallejo wants to combat that loss of local talent and says her background working at the family business in Alton can help her do just that.
“I’m a daughter of immigrants. I grew up in my family business, which is Pulga Las Portales, a flea market that works to serve many other families to make sure that they’re able to make ends meet,” Vallejo said.
“I have always been a champion of the people and of working families of South Texas.”