National Democrats to cancel Vallejo ad funding in competitive TX-15 race

Local Democratic Party activists feeling abandoned as PACs turn attention toward protecting incumbents in South Texas.

By Kristen CabreraOctober 11, 2022 1:14 pm,

Early voting starts in just a few weeks – Monday, Oct. 24 – and ends Friday, Nov. 4.

And as we get close to casting ballots, the political races are heating up. But as Axios reports, for some districts like TX-15 in the Rio Grande Valley, the friction is coming from inside the house: the House Majority PAC, which is planning on canceling the remaining scheduled ad run for Democratic candidate Michelle Vallejo at the end of the month. That decision has left Valley democrats organizers in that district feeling abandoned.

Though the writing has been on the wall, says Patrick Svitek, the primary political correspondent from the Texas Tribune. He spoke with the Texas Standard on why this PAC and others are making this move so close to the election. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: A lack of financial support from national Democrats has been sort of a theme for Vallejo’s whole campaign at this juncture as political ads are ramping up. Why do you think House Majority PAC is canceling this ad run?

Patrick Svitek: Well, we’re officially in the period when these big-spending political action committees have to make really tough decisions about how they allocate their resources. Sometimes that includes cutting off money to races that they view as lost causes or races that they can no longer win. And I think that the lack of investment at this point, in this particular district, shows that these national Democratic groups at least believe it’s no longer winnable. Of course, as you pointed out, you have Democrats inside Texas at the statewide level – and then at the local level, inside the district – who say that this is not a race that they should abandon, that it’s still within reach, and that the national Democratic Party should be spending there.

I should note that these national Democratic groups are spending in the two other targeted South Texas districts, which are districts where current Democratic incumbents are running for re-election. And sometimes, to these committees, protecting incumbents is a higher priority than these open seats like the one that we have in the 15th District. And so a number of factors at play here. But you obviously have Democrats at the local level not happy about this decision.

I have to say, I’m sort of stuck on what you said with national Democrats thinking about this race as perhaps being a lost cause. I guess the question is, well, why? I mean, at this juncture, there was a possibility, I think, at least among many Texas Democrats, that this was anything but a lost cause. 

So if you look at the present margin in these three congressional districts in South Texas, this is the one that was the closest in 2020. It was redrawn to be a district that I believe Trump would have carried by two or three points. And so on paper, at least looking at the presidential margin, it looks like it should be the most competitive.

But we have a very dynamic environment in South Texas right now. There’s definitely a political shift happening down there. We can debate how big of a shift it is, but something is definitely changing. And I think that’s evidenced by the fact if you looking at the neighboring 34th District, which was redrawn to be a Democratic-friendly district, and now you have multiple national prognosticators rating it as a toss-up district. And so I think the environment down there is trending Republican. And so it may have trended too Republican, at least in the view of the national Democratic groups, in that 15th District. It may have trended too Republican for them to determine it’s worth investing at this point.

A lot of Texas progressive voters expressing feelings of abandonment. Haven’t national Democrats in recent memory really only financially backed established Democrats? Thinking Henry Cuellar in Laredo, for example. 

Yeah, there are a few overlapping factors. It’s definitely true that Henry Cuellar is getting this backing, and he is a more moderate Democrat than Michelle Vallejo is in the 15th District. At the same time, as I pointed out, he also is an incumbent. And he’s not only an incumbent, but he’s an incumbent in good standing with his party’s leadership. And so sometimes, again, protecting incumbents and protecting incumbents who are team players with leadership, you know, takes a higher priority here. I wouldn’t say it’s all about, but sometimes it just comes down to those relationships.

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