Fresh off a 2020 election cycle in which they held the line against an ambitious Democratic campaign to capture U.S. House seats in Texas, national Republicans are signaling they'll go on the offensive here in 2022, with an emphasis on South Texas.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, announced Wednesday that it's targeting five Texas Democrats in the U.S. House as they seek to regain their majority in 2022. The list of targets is three more than the GOP seriously targeted last year and includes three Democrats in South Texas where the party underperformed in November.
The first round of 2022 pickup opportunities includes the seats held by Reps. Colin Allred of Dallas, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Lizzie Fletcher of Houston, Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen and Filemon Vela of Brownsville. There are 47 seats total on the initial national target list.
Allred and Fletcher flipped their seats in 2018 and fended off major Republican challenges last election cycle when they were also NRCC targets. Cuellar, Gonzalez and Vela, however, are new to the national GOP radar after President Joe Biden carried their traditionally blue districts by surprisingly small margins, part of trend of Democratic underperformance across South Texas last year that alarmed the party.
Republicans are especially emboldened after the NRCC's Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, targeted 10 GOP-held seats in Texas last election cycle and won none.
“House Republicans start the cycle just five seats short of a majority and are prepared to build on our 2020 successes to deliver a lasting Republican majority in the House," NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer said in a statement. "We will stay laser-focused on recruiting talented and diverse candidates, aggressively highlighting Democrats’ socialist agenda and raising enough resources to win.”
Of the three South Texas Democrats, Gonzalez had the closest call in November, winning reelection by 3 percentage points. His Republican opponent then, Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, has already announced she’s challenging him again.
Cuellar and Vela handily won their races last year — by 19 and 14 points, respectively.
But Biden underperformed in all three South Texas districts, carrying Cuellar's and Vela's seats by 4 points and González's by 2. The districts, of course, will likely be redrawn in redistricting prior to the November 2022 election.
National Republican groups have already made clear the South Texas Democrats are in their sights with news releases pressuring them to speak out against some early actions of the Biden administration, particularly when it comes to the energy industry. Late last month, Fletcher, Cuellar and Gonzalez signed on to a letter asking Biden to rescind his executive order temporarily halting new fracking on federal lands. Fletcher has also voiced disagreement with Biden's decision to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Vela, meanwhile, has been outspoken since the November election about the need for Democrats to offer a better message on energy jobs. And he has said South Texas is a priority as he begins his term as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.
The DCCC has not yet named its 2022 targets in Texas, though it has already included freshman U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, in an early attack ad campaign. Van Duyne won her seat in November by under 2 points.