Republican Beth Van Duyne, the former mayor of Irving, Texas, has claimed victory in a race to replace Republican Rep. Kenny Marchant in Texas’s 24th District, quashing Democrats’ hopes of picking up the seat.
Van Duyne, who stepped down as mayor in 2017 to work in the Trump administration as a regional official for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, had received an endorsement from the president and cast her Democratic opponent Candace Valenzuela as too liberal for Texas. She advocated for reopening schools and against further pandemic-related shutdowns. And she espoused pro-police policies, stoking fear about “violent criminals” and the decline of Texas cities in the face of protests over racial injustice.
“Make no mistake: There are gangs. We’ve got drug cartels that are doing business in our street. We’ve got sex trafficking,” she told the Dallas Morning News. “Those aren’t things we’re just making up. This is real city crime.”
The race, which drew significant investment from both parties, was rated a toss-up in the final stretch before Election Day. But it seemed Van Duyne was ultimately able to leverage her political experience and conservative social values to defeat Valenzuela.
As Irving’s mayor, Van Duyne infamously sought an investigation of a group of Muslim imams in north Texas, falsely accusing them of bypassing American courts when settling disputes among members of their community. She also became a vocal opponent of sanctuary policies that shield unauthorized immigrants from federal immigration enforcement.
While at HUD, she had worked on rebuilding areas of Texas that were devastated by Hurricane Harvey.
The mostly suburban 24th District stretches between Dallas and Fort Worth. It has been a reliably red district since 2004, but Marchant, the retiring Tea Party Republican, only won by a narrow, 3 percent margin in 2018. Democrat Beto O’Rourke also won the district in his ultimately failed Senate bid that year, suggesting Democrats had a shot at flipping it.
They consequently targeted the district this year, enrolling Valenzuela in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, which aims to support Democratic candidates trying to flip GOP-held districts and gives them an edge in fundraising. She was also endorsed by former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Like other Democrats nationwide, Valenzuela highlighted policies aiming to deliver better health care and economic relief to Texans amid the pandemic, which she said has been bungled by the Trump administration. But her personal history set her apart: She experienced homelessness as a child, put herself through college, and developed a chronic health condition in the wake of a car accident.
The race was a microcosm of the broader battle for the rapidly diversifying Texas suburbs, which have seen huge growth among their Hispanic and Asian populations — a demographic shift that Democrats perceive as an opportunity. President Donald Trump, who had shown weakness among suburban women, in particular, leading up to Election Day, has appeared to hurt down-ballot Republicans in these areas. But in the 24th District, which is nearly a quarter Hispanic and 10 percent Asian, Van Duyne still prevailed.