Democrat Michelle Vallejo seeks rematch against U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz in 2024
Despite a 9-point defeat in 2022, Vallejo hopes to attract national support to her race for the South Texas district.
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Democrat Michelle Vallejo is running again for the 15th Congressional District, looking to flip back the one U.S. House seat in Texas that Republicans captured last year.
Vallejo made the announcement Tuesday morning in a video that criticized the GOP incumbent, U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz of Edinburg, on multiple issues, including Republican efforts to cut spending for social services and curtail access to abortion.
“In South Texas, Monica De La Cruz makes a lot of promises to us, la gente, but in Congress, her record tells a different story,” Vallejo said in the video.
Vallejo ran for the 15th District in 2022, when it was an open seat, and lost to De La Cruz by 9 percentage points. Redistricting had tilted the seat in favor of the GOP, but national Democrats also declined to seriously invest in Vallejo and prioritized other races. That decision led to recriminations inside the party as it sought to fend off a well-funded GOP offensive in South Texas, which ultimately produced mixed results.
Vallejo said she’s optimistic about national Democratic investments in her race, noting that both Republicans and Democrats have singled out the district as competitive.
“I’m feeling very confident about the resources that they are gearing up for Texas 15,” Vallejo said. “Both sides have targeted this seat as a battleground, and that really points to the vulnerabilities that Monica De La Cruz, as a member of Congress, right now has shown us to have.”
The 15th District stretches from the Mexican border in McAllen up to Guadalupe County east of San Antonio.
Unseating De La Cruz will not be easy. She has been running for the 15th District since the 2020 election cycle, when she came surprisingly close to defeating its Democratic incumbent at the time, Vicente Gonzalez. And her 9-point margin last year outperformed the 3-point win former President Donald Trump would have had under the redrawn district boundaries in 2020.
“We'll have plenty of time to discuss my record of working in a bipartisan manner to deliver results for South Texas,” De La Cruz said in a statement. “Right now, I am focused on promoting my positive agenda for our community, which includes solving the Biden border crisis, providing tax relief to working families, and protecting Medicare and Social Security so our abuelitos can retire with dignity."
Medicare and Social Security will undoubtedly be a major point of debate in the campaign. In her launch video, Vallejo accused De La Cruz of “jeopardizing” the two programs, citing a January media report that some House Republicans were considering changes to entitlements as part of the fight over raising the debt ceiling.
House Republicans have since strongly denied that Social Security and Medicare would be cut and did not include cuts to the programs in their budget resolution passed last month.
Despite the 2022 campaign, Democrats see an opportunity to win back the 15th District. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced last month that it will target the seat in 2024, suggesting it will not be as hands-off as it was in the previous cycle.
National Republicans, for their part, are again targeting the neighboring 34th District, where Gonzalez is now the incumbent.
Losing the 15th District would also be a major blow for Republicans who have been aggressively reaching out to Hispanic voters, saying their party better reflects the social conservatism of many Hispanic communities.
The National Republican Congressional Committee responded to Vallejo's launch by calling her a “radical liberal.”
“Even many Democrats refused to vote for her which is why she badly under-performed Joe Biden in TX-15 last year,” NRCC spokesperson Delanie Bomar said in a statement. “South Texans have already rejected Michelle Vallejo — and they will do so again in 2024.”
Vallejo ran as an unabashed progressive when she emerged as the 2022 Democratic nominee in the 15th District. She championed proposals such as a $15-per-hour minimum wage and the single-payer health care system known as Medicare for All. Vallejo narrowly defeated a more moderate candidate, Ruben Ramirez, in the 2022 Democratic primary by only 0.2 points.
Vallejo said she would continue running on a similar slate of policy issues, including access to health care, economic development and reproductive rights. Vallejo runs a “pulga,” or flea market, started by her family, which she said gave her a unique outlook on wide swaths of her community.
Vallejo shrugged off criticism that she’s too progressive for a district that has traditionally been represented by moderate Democrats.
“I grew up here in the district. I’m a small-business owner. I grew up serving many other small businesses, and I’ve never labeled myself one thing or the other, other than being a champion of the people,” Vallejo said.
So far, no other credible Democratic candidates have stepped forward to run for the 15th District in 2024.
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