Vela bests Gonzalez in U.S. House race

November 7, 2018

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) appeared likely to fend off a challenge from Republican Rey Gonzalez Jr. on Tuesday, coming in with 63,025 votes to Gonzalez’s 45,792 as of press time with 48 percent of precincts reporting.

It was Gonzalez’s second failed bid against Vela, who beat the San Benito attorney 104,638 to 62,323 in the 2016 general election.

The Texas 34th Congressional District was created as a result of population changes revealed by the 2010 Census. It includes Bee, Cameron DeWitt, Goliad, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy counties, and portions of Gonzales, Hidalgo and San Patricio counties. Vela, a Brownsville native, has represented the district since 2013.

Gonzalez, a resident of San Benito who holds degrees in law and medicine, had campaigned on issues such as better educational opportunities and affordable access to health care for residents of South Texas.

Speaking by phone Tuesday night from El Paso just before attending Beto O’Rourke’s election-night rally, Vela expressed gratitude for being reelected.

“ I like the work part of what I do better than the election part, so I’m ready to get back and work on some things like resaca restoration and stuff at the port,” he said. “I would say that I tend to focus on projects that really will make a difference over the long term, although what I have found in Washington is that things take a very long time.”

In Brownsville, that includes projects such as the deepening of the Brownsville Ship Channel and securing funding for a new airport terminal building and resaca restoration, Vela said.

“ That’s where I like to spend my time, and obviously, since we live in a border district, immigration and border trade issues are front and center,” he said.

“ And I suspect that given this president’s continued negative rhetoric toward the border community and to Mexico, and given his recent order to deploy troops a week before the election, that we’re going to have to continue those sort of battles with this administration.”

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