Valley flirts with Republican Party in 2020 election turnout

A President Trump supporters campaigns outside the Lark Public Library on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Election Day results in the Rio Grande Valley were what everyone expected and what no one could predict. Voters colored Texas’ southernmost tip blue when they gave Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden their votes in this 2020 election; though, the margin signaling a Democratic stronghold shrunk faster in this election than in recent years.

Texas is projected to go to President Donald Trump. Though, the Valley remained a consistent Democratic win.

Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr counties went to Biden but not with an overwhelming portion of the votes. The Republican Party made significant strides in gaining support in each of the counties this presidential election.

GOP influence grew the most in Starr County this election compared to 2016.

It was a close call for the Democratic Party that saw a narrow win for Biden with only 52% of the votes. This year, Trump secured a whopping 47% of all ballots cast. Compared to the 19% he received in 2016, that represents a sizable 28% jump during this re-election bid.

Republican support also strengthened in Cameron and Hidalgo County by 12% and 13%, respectively, at last check.

Texas became a closely watched state when polls between Biden and Trump indicated a tight race ahead.

“Flipping the state blue” became a popular phrase bandied by Democratic politicos who visited South Texas over the weekend in an attempt to tease out more votes from the historically left-leaning county.

“The road to the White House … goes through South Texas,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said on Sunday when he toured Hidalgo County.

It appeared to be an easier feat this time, though the last time Texans gave their votes to a Democratic presidential candidate was 44 years ago when Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford.

Perez and other Democrats were looking at a more recent example of a shift in political dynamics.

“Remember, Beto [O’Rourke] lost by about 200,000 votes in 2018,” he said. “We can make up these votes alone in the Valley. If we take Latino turnout from 40% to 50%, that’s enough to flip Texas.”

Another heartening sign came in higher interest expressed in the democratic process. This year, by the time early voting ended, Texas ended with over 9.7 million ballots cast. That was more than all the people who voted in the election in 2016, 8.9 million.

That process was hampered by technical problems in Hidalgo County. Electronic poll books that check-in voters became glitchy at seven locations in Edinburg, McAllen, Pharr, San Juan and Weslaco. As a result, the county decided to compensate for the time and gave voters an extra hour.

Democrats were looking at several key races throughout the country including a seat in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. Ultimately, John Cornyn prevailed over his Democratic challenger MJ Hegar with a lead of over 1 million votes.

The Texas Republican Party issued a statement congratulating Cornyn on the win.

“Senator Cornyn will continue to be a champion for Texas and conservative values in Washington,” Chairman Allen West stated. “Senator Cornyn deserves this victory, and I look forward to his continued service to the great state of Texas.”

In the end, more people made their voice heard across the Valley. About 60,000 more people voted in this election than in 2016.