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Rio Grande Valley Republicans have boasted growing strength in recent years. It’s a significant achievement in an area that has long been known as a Democratic Party stronghold, even called a one-party region. A big question hangs over the local conservative party, however: can it sustain its current success?

The answer to that question remains to be seen.

Recent Republican Party inroads have drawn national attention. National party officials recently have invested heavily in capitalizing on those gains, sending financial support to local GOP candidates.

That wasn’t always the case. For decades most elections in the Valley were decided during the March primaries, as Republicans didn’t even field candidates for most elected positions.

But the party now is represented in most races, and some candidates are winning. The 2022 general election placed a Valley Republican in both the state legislature and in Congress, for the first time in more than a century. The lone exception was Blake Fahrenthold, who represented the eastern part of the Valley from 2011 to 2018. However, Fahrenthold was elected on the strength of votes from the northern end of his region, which extended north of his hometown of Corpus Christi.

South Texas Republicans’ strength, however, remains in question. Are supporters’ devotion more to Donald Trump or to traditional party positions? His name, and positions, are mentioned much more often than those of the party.

Will Trump’s recent conviction on felony business fraud charges, and the results of other pending cases, affect that devotion, and Republicans’ strength in South Texas?

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling granting Trump partial immunity from prosecution didn’t clear him completely. Moreover, regardless of the results of future trials, and of the November presidential election, we can expect an identity crisis to emerge once Trump’s influence wanes. And that time likely isn’t too far off, as Trump just marked his 78th birthday.

Valley Republicans have been here before, and candidates representing the party have been elected. Many can be characterized in two ways: young progressives such as Tony Garza and Carlos Cascos in Cameron County, and older, more conservative members such as mayors Othal Brand in McAllen, John Franz in Hidalgo and Conrado “Connie” de la Garza in Harlingen, who promised to fight burdensome bureaucracy and get things done.

Each period of success, however, has led to infighting between the young moderates and the old guard who fought to retain traditional party principles. Such fighting led to implosions that largely negated previous gains.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen this time. While Democrats certainly have enjoyed their historical dominance in South Texas, many have blamed the region’s history of widespread political corruption on the lack of options, and oversight, that an opposition party can provide.

A political party needs to be based on more than the personality of one person. Once that person is gone, the group could founder at it seeks to find, or create, a new, more permanent, identity.

For Rio Grande Valley Republicans, that challenge might not be far away.