GOP candidate in congressional race calls election into question

EDINBURG — Now-former congressional candidate Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez lobbed allegations of improprieties in the November election at a news conference Tuesday, believing it cost her the race for Texas’ District 15 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

De La Cruz-Hernandez also used the news conference as an opportunity to announce plans to run for the same seat in the 2022 election.

According to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, De La Cruz-Hernandez, a Republican, lost the election to Democrat incumbent Vicente Gonzalez by 6,588 votes.

Citing her own investigation into voter rolls and rosters, De La Cruz-Hernandez said improprieties may have affected the outcome.

“I am calling into question this vote difference and the validity of the Gonzalez win,” she said.

De La Cruz-Hernandez said she has submitted a formal complaint to the secretary of state’s office.

Specifically, she claimed Tuesday that people who voted in the Hidalgo County election were not on the voter roll and alleged that mail-in ballots sent out by the county were illegal.

“Yvonne Ramon, the Hidalgo Elections Administrator, failed to uphold the Texas Supreme Court ruling and still mailed out these ballots who were unsolicited,” she said. “We are asking today that Yvonne Ramon or Richard Cortez, our judge, be held responsible for not upholding the Texas Supreme Court ruling.”

De La Cruz-Hernandez was referring to a Texas Supreme Court ruling in October holding that an early-voting clerk is not authorized to send mail-in ballot applications to registered voters who haven’t requested one.

Ramon responded to De La Cruz-Hernandez’s allegations in a statement Tuesday, defending the integrity of the election.

“Let me be clear that to date, neither the federal or state governments have determined that there have been any violations regarding the matter in which the election was conducted,” she wrote. “As a matter of clarification, and in compliance with the Supreme’s Court most recent ruling, the Hidalgo County Commissioner’s Court approved to mail ballot applications only to voters who were 65 and older. As well, the Texas Election Code allows any voter who is not 65 years of age and older, but is otherwise eligible, to request a mail-in ballot application.”

Ramon also responded to De La Cruz-Hernandez’s claims about the voter roll.

“Furthermore, voters who are not registered voters of Hidalgo County may appear on our manual listing of check-ins at each of the polling locations, as the law allows Limited Ballot voters and provisional voters to vote on a provisional standing, awaiting the decision of the Ballot Board,” she wrote, adding that the board, which has the task of reviewing provisionals, is composed of representatives from both parties and is based on the Texas Election Code.

“The Hidalgo County Elections Department prides itself on being a nonpartisan entity and works hard to ensure transparency and fairness,” Ramon wrote.

Gonzalez also responded to De La Cruz-Hernandez with a statement Tuesday.

“It’s unfortunate that some candidates continue to struggle with election results,” he wrote. “If anyone has proof of any illegality in any election, I encourage them to report it to the District Attorney’s office or an appropriate authority. However, false allegations by failed candidates in a desperate attempt to get attention erode trust in our democracy and should not be tolerated by our communities. It is also important to note that the two Republican candidates who won and were on the same ballot have accepted the election results.

“I will continue to pray for her. And hope she finds the help she needs to comfort her heart during this post election period.”

Citing the current political makeup of the House, De La Cruz-Hernandez said that successfully contesting the race would be unlikely. Regardless, she says she’ll be back in two years to run for the congressional seat.

“This does not mean that we give up,” De La Cruz-Hernandez said. “It means that we fight harder.”