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Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday called a June 14 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, in a South Texas seat that Republicans are working to flip.
The filing deadline for the special election is April 13, and early voting starts May 31, according to Abbott's proclamation.
Vela resigned Thursday to take a job with Akin Gump, a prominent lobbying and law firm. He had already announced he was not seeking reelection.
The special election will be held under the previous, more competitive boundaries of the district, under which President Joe Biden carried it by only 4 percentage points. His underperformance throughout South Texas emboldened Republicans who are now trying to make fresh inroads throughout the region.
The winner of the special election will only get to finish Vela's term, which goes through January 2023. Still, Republicans are eager to score an early win on their way to November, and the current GOP nominee for the full term in the 34th District, Mayra Flores, has already said she would run in any special election.
The current Democratic nominee for the full term in the 34th District is U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, who bailed on a reelection bid in his current seat after Republicans redrew it to be more competitive for themselves. Gonzalez has said he does not plan to run in the special election, leaving Democrats to scramble to find a viable candidate.
Abbott had the option of scheduling the special election for the Nov. 8 uniform election date or calling an "emergency special election" to slate it sooner. He went the latter route, citing his disaster declarations on COVID-19 and the Mexican border to argue that it is "imperative to fill this vacancy to ensure that Congressional District 34 is fully represented as soon as possible." He also cited the coming hurricane season.
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