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The Rise of the Far-Right Latina

WASHINGTON — For years, Texas Republicans tried to win the Hispanic vote utilizing a Bush-era model of compassionate conservatism. The concept was {that a} reasonable’s contact and a softer rhetoric on immigration had been key to creating inroads with Hispanic voters, significantly in Democratic strongholds alongside the southern border.

Such was the Texas of outdated. The Trump age has given rise to a brand new model of Texas Republicans, one of whom is already strolling the halls of Congress: the far-right Latina.

Representative Mayra Flores grew to become the first Republican to characterize the Rio Grande Valley in additional than a century after she received a particular election final month and flipped the congressional seat from blue to pink. She additionally grew to become the first Latina Republican ever despatched by Texas to Congress. Her abbreviated time period lasts solely by way of the finish of the 12 months, and he or she is seen as an extended shot to win re-election to a full one.

But what’s most placing is that Ms. Flores received by shunning moderates, embracing the far proper and carrying her assist for Donald J. Trump on her sleeve — extra Marjorie Taylor Greene than Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Her marketing campaign slogan — “God, family, country” — was meant to attraction to what she calls the “traditional values” of her majority-Hispanic district in the border metropolis of Brownsville. She known as for President Biden’s impeachment. She tweeted QAnon hashtags. And she known as the Democratic Party the “greatest threat America faces.”

In an interview in her still-barren workplace the day after her swearing-in ceremony, Ms. Flores was requested whether or not she thought-about Mr. Biden the legitimately elected president.

“He’s the worst president of the United States,” she mentioned.

When requested three extra occasions whether or not Mr. Biden had been legitimately elected, she repeated the similar nonanswer.

Two different Latina Republicans, Monica De La Cruz in McAllen and Cassy Garcia in Laredo, are additionally on the poll in congressional races alongside the Mexican border. All three — G.O.P. officers have taken to calling them a “triple threat” — share right-wing views on immigration, the 2020 election and abortion, amongst different points.

They share the similar advisers, have held marketing campaign rallies and fund-raisers collectively and have knocked on doorways aspect by aspect. They accuse the Democratic Party of taking Hispanic voters without any consideration and think about themselves, as do their supporters, as the embodiment of the American dream: Ms. Flores typically speaks of working alongside her mother and father as a youngster in the cotton fields of the Texas Panhandle.

Ms. Flores, Ms. De La Cruz and Ms. Garcia grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, a working-class four-county area at the southernmost tip of Texas the place Hispanics make up 93 % of the inhabitants. All three are bilingual; Ms. Flores was born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and the different two in South Texas. Only Ms. De La Cruz has been endorsed by Mr. Trump, but all of them stay outspoken advocates for him, his motion and his powerful discuss on limiting immigration and constructing the border wall.

The Rio Grande Valley has lengthy been a politically liberal but culturally conservative place. Church pews are packed on Sundays, American flags wave from their poles on entrance lawns and legislation enforcement is revered. Ms. Flores’s husband is a Border Patrol agent, a be aware she typically emphasised on the marketing campaign path.

In 2020, the Valley’s conservative tradition began to exert a higher affect on its politics. Mr. Trump flipped rural Zapata County and narrowed the Democratic margin of victory in the 4 Valley counties and in different border cities.

“Growing up down there, you always have closeted Republicans,” mentioned Ms. Garcia, a former aide to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. “Now, the desire to embrace Republicans is really spreading. They feel a genuine sense of belonging.”

Other pro-Trump Latinas are working for House seats in Virginia, Florida and New Mexico, amongst different locations.

Republican leaders and strategists say Ms. Flores’s win and the candidacies of different right-wing Hispanic girls are proof that Latino voters are more and more shifting to the proper. More than 100 Republican House candidates are Hispanic, a report quantity, in response to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Democrats view the state of affairs a lot in a different way. Some Democratic leaders dismiss Ms. Flores’s victory as a fluke — the product of a low-turnout particular election during which 28,990 people cast ballots — and a fleeting one.

Ms. Flores, who was elected to serve the final six months of a retiring Democratic congressman’s time period, is working in November for a full time period. She faces a preferred Democratic incumbent who’s switching districts, Representative Vicente Gonzalez.

Democratic leaders are optimistic that Mr. Gonzalez will defeat Ms. Flores, and that Ms. Garcia will lose her race in opposition to Representative Henry Cuellar, the conservative Democrat who narrowly beat a progressive challenger in a major runoff.

Ms. De La Cruz, nevertheless, is working in the best House race in Texas and can face Michelle Vallejo, a progressive Democrat.

Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who heads the marketing campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, dismissed Ms. Flores’s win as a “public relations coup” for Republicans.

“It does not mean she represents mainstream Hispanic voters,” Mr. Gallego mentioned.

Mr. Gonzalez, the Democratic congressman, practically misplaced to Ms. De La Cruz two years in the past when she challenged him in Texas’ fifteenth Congressional District. He won by 6,588 votes. Now, he’s difficult Ms. Flores in the thirty fourth District.

“This was a profound message to the party,” he mentioned of Ms. Flores’s victory. “It’s really woken up the Democratic base. I’ve never had so many people volunteer for free in all my years.”

As she moved into her congressional workplace throughout from the Capitol, Ms. Flores, an evangelical Christian, eyed the naked partitions. She deliberate to place up a big picture of the SpaceX launch web site in her district in addition to photos of Jesus.

She had campaigned with the assist of evangelical church buildings; her pastor carried out a “Make America Godly Again” outreach effort and traveled to Washington for her swearing-in. “I do believe that pastors should be getting involved in politics and in guiding their congressmen,” Ms. Flores mentioned. “Our pastors know our people better than we do.”

Ms. Flores wasted no time displaying a combative type with Democrats. Minutes after her swearing-in, Speaker Nancy Pelosi posed with Ms. Flores and her household for a photograph. What occurred subsequent is a matter of debate. To Democrats, it seemed as if Ms. Pelosi had brushed her arm in opposition to Ms. Flores’s 8-year-old daughter as the two stood aspect by aspect. To Republicans, it seemed as if Ms. Pelosi had shoved her apart.

“No child should be pushed to the side for a photo op. PERIOD!!” Ms. Flores later wrote on Twitter.

To hear Ms. Flores inform it, her swap to the G.O.P. was inevitable.

Early on, she mentioned, she had voted Democratic, primarily as a result of everybody she knew did the similar. The first time she solid a poll for a Republican for president, she mentioned, was for Mitt Romney in 2012.

After attending a Republican occasion for the spouses of Border Patrol brokers, Ms. Flores started to volunteer for the Hidalgo County Republican Party in McAllen. By 2020, she was organizing pro-Trump caravans by way of the Rio Grande Valley.

She was additionally posting tweets utilizing the hashtag #QAnon.

When requested about QAnon, Ms. Flores denied ever having supported the conspiracy principle, which claims {that a} group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a toddler intercourse ring is attempting to manage the authorities and the media. Hashtags have lengthy been thought-about social media shorthand for expressing assist for a trigger or an concept, however Ms. Flores insisted her intention was to specific opposition to QAnon.

“It’s just to reach more people so more people can see like, hey, this needs to stop,” she mentioned of utilizing the QAnon hashtag. “This is only hurting our country.”

Ms. Flores deleted the tweets about QAnon, however she didn’t chorus from expressing different right-wing views. After the 2020 election, she insisted on Twitter that Mr. Trump had received, writing in a single publish, “Ganamos y lo vamos a demostrar!” or “We won, and we will prove it!” Following the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, she retweeted a publish falsely calling it a “setup” by antifa. She has known as Mr. Biden “president in name only” and has demanded his impeachment. And as her personal oath of workplace coincided with the hearings by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault, Ms. Flores largely dismissed the proceedings.

“Honestly, my district doesn’t care about that,” she mentioned of the hearings. “My district is struggling to pay their bills. That’s what we’re supposed to be focusing on.”

Like Ms. Flores, Ms. De La Cruz describes herself as a former Democrat who “walked away” from the occasion. She mentioned she solid her first vote in a Republican major for Mr. Trump in 2016.

“I believe that the president was bringing to light the terrible things that we were doing to our country,” Ms. De La Cruz mentioned.

After she narrowly misplaced her problem to Mr. Gonzalez in 2020, Ms. De La Cruz suggested, without evidence, that each she and Mr. Trump had been victims of voter fraud in the district.

Ms. Garcia, in contrast, mentioned she has been a Republican her entire life. Raised conservative, she went to church thrice per week and entered politics quickly after school, working as the outreach director for Mr. Cruz in McAllen.

As a candidate, she has targeted on non secular liberty, faculty selection and abortion bans — points on which she mentioned the area’s Hispanic voters had been more and more like-minded.

“The red wave is here,” Ms. Garcia mentioned.

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