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Two Democrats and two Republicans have filed for the June 14 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, in a South Texas congressional seat that the GOP wants to flip.
The filing deadline was 5 p.m. Wednesday, and the candidates are Democrat Dan Sanchez, a Harlingen attorney; Republican Mayra Flores, the current GOP nominee for the seat in the November general election; Republican Juana "Janie" Cantu-Cabrera, one of Flores' competitors from the March primary; and Democrat Rene Coronado of Harlingen, who listed his occupation as "city civil service director."
The special election was triggered by Vela's resignation last month to take a job with Akin Gump, a prominent law and lobbying firm. He had already announced he was not seeking reelection.
The winner of the special election will only get to finish Vela's term, which extends until January. But Republicans are eager to capture the seat as they try to gain new ground in South Texas, and the special election is happening under the previous, more competitive boundaries of the 34th District. The November election for a full term in Congress will be held under new district boundaries that were redrawn during last year's redistricting process.
Top Republicans have already consolidated behind Flores. She has been endorsed for the special election by Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas GOP chair Matt Rinaldi, Texas GOP vice chair Cat Parks and the Congressional Leadership Fund, the leading super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership.
Sanchez, a former Cameron County commissioner, has the support of Vela, as well as U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, who is currently the Democratic nominee for the full term in the 34th District. He declined to run in the special election.
The other Republican, Cantu-Cabrera, previously faced Flores in the March 1 primary for the full term in the 34th District. Cantu-Cabrera came in last in the four-way primary, getting 7% of the vote to 61% for Flores.
Early voting for the special election starts May 31.
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