A surprise win in a mayoral race in South Texas has some Democrats fearing they're losing their grip on the Hispanic vote.
Republican candidate Javier Villalobos was elected in the town of McAllen, a Hispanic-majority town that has been a bastion for Democrats.
Villalobos's message on improving the economy apparently connected with residents with about 25 percent of whom live in poverty.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) says the victory shows Hispanic voters are receptive to populist, Republican messages.
"Javier Villalobos is a proven leader who cares deeply about the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Congratulations on becoming the next Mayor of McAllen!" Abbott wrote on Facebook.
Fox News reports Villalobos, an attorney, was appointed to the Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board by Abbott in 2018 and is the former chair of the Hidalgo County GOP.
"Amazing news! McAllen, Texas is a major border town of 140,000 people. 85% Hispanic — and just elected a Republican mayor. The macro realignment accelerates in South Texas, and elsewhere, as Hispanics rally to America First: Strong Borders, Economic Nationalism, Pro-Police," former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes tweeted.
Amazing news! McAllen, Texas is a major border town of 140,000 people. 85% Hispanic — and just elected a Republican mayor.
The macro realignment accelerates in South Texas, and elsewhere, as Hispanics rally to America First:
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) June 6, 2021
KVEO-TV reports Villalobos defeated Veronica Whitacre with 4,744 votes to Whitacre's 4,538 votes. Villalobos won with 51.11 percent of the election total. His term as mayor will last four years.
Hidalgo County, home of McAllen, went to President Biden by roughly 17 points in the 2020 election, according to Fox News. Republicans and other pundits think this may be a sign that Hispanics in South Texas may have shifted to the GOP.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration faces continued criticism from GOP lawmakers and others over its border security. Abbott has also increased the presence of the Texas Department of Public Safety and National Guard in south Texas.