Rep. Mayra Flores, R-Texas, was one of the faces of a rightward shift in the Latino vote that’s upended American politics and captured the attention of national media this year.
She’s leaving office after less than a year on Capitol Hill, but she expressed pride in her tenure and said the Hispanic community and its shift to the right cannot be taken for granted by Democrats or the media.
“I’m very proud of the performance we did in my district,” she told Fox News Digital. “I’m very proud of the work that we did in south Texas. It’s only trending more conservative. We did better than in 2020, so we’re not going backwards, which is great. That’s what it’s all about.”
She won Texas’ 34th Congressional District in a special election in June to finish the term of retiring Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, making her the first Republican Latina congresswoman from Texas and the first female Mexican-born member ever in the House of Representatives.
However, a new district map forced her into a race with Rep. Vicente Gonzales, D-Texas, in a district far more friendly to Democrats. With swaths of heavily blue San Antonio in the redrawn district, it went from a +4 Biden district in the summer to a +16 Biden one in November.
Gonzalez defeated her by eight points, and Flores touted that she cut into Biden’s margin with her showing.
But Flores’ tweet on election night that the “RED WAVE did not happen” went viral, as she called out Republicans and independents who stayed home. “DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE RESULTS IF YOU DID NOT DO YOUR PART!” she wrote.
“That’s not good for America when people do not go out and vote,” she told Fox News Digital. “People need to go out to vote. Doesn’t matter what side you’re on. We need to hear your voice in Washington. We need to hear your voice in Austin.”
Flores said “lies and misinformation” from the Democratic Party unfairly painted her as “far-right” and an extremist. It wasn’t only Democrats who gave her that label, as Flores and fellow south Texas Latina Republicans Monica De La Cruz and Cassy Garcia were profiled in a New York Times article headlined, “The Rise of the Far-Right Latina.” The New York Times defended the framing at the time, saying Flores had amplified misinformation about the 2020 election and promoted QAnon; Flores said she’s never supported that conspiracy theory.
Flores fired back at the time that the paper knew “nothing” about her and her region was about “God, family and work.”
A liberal CNN columnist furthermore said Flores and others were not “real deal” Latinas because of their conservative politics. Furthermore, a local blogger launched sexist and racist attacks at her, mocking Flores as “Miss Frijoles.”
But the overall rightward shift first seen in 2020, when President Trump improved on his margins with Latino voters even as he lost the election, continued in 2022 and attracted extensive media attention. CNN and MSNBC published multiple stories and reports on the phenomenon throughout the election season, which was particularly evident in Florida as Gov. Ron DeSantis, R. and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., captured Latino-heavy Miami-Dade County en route to landslide victories.
However, some pundits like MSNBC’s Jen Psaki said Spanish-language voters in Florida had been subject to “disinformation.” NBC News reported this year on Democratic strategists “sounding the alarm about a wave of misinformation aimed at Latinos heading into 2022.”
“We’re far away from being far-right. We’re strong conservatives. We’re people of faith, family, freedom, hard work,” Flores said. “That is just who we are, and it’s time that we are not taken for granted, and we’ve been taken for granted for far too long.”
Flores expressed pride that De La Cruz won in Texas’ 15th Congressional District. Latinos, according to exit polls, still voted in the majority for Democrats nationally.
Asked if she would seek office again, Flores responded, “2024 is definitely on my mind.”
While Republicans largely rolled in Texas, the 2022 midterms were widely considered a disappointment for a party hoping for a “red wave” in the wake of record inflation, gas prices, below-water approval of President Biden, and majority discontent with the direction of the country. Republicans failed to recapture the Senate, and the finger-pointing has begun, with Trump himself taking some blame for his preferred candidates losing key races.
Trump lashed out at several key Republicans last week in the wake of the midterms, including Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R., and DeSantis. Flores, a Trump supporter, said the blame game was “not good for America,” although she didn’t specifically call out the former president.
“Now more than ever, we need to unite and work together. We need to come together as a party, as Americans,” she said. “We need to come together… This division among us, it only hurts the people. So my advice is, hey, we can’t be doing this. We got to come together and get to work together on what’s best for this country.”