South Texas Democrat Michelle Vallejo won a bitter primary fight by embracing a slew of far-left policies. Now, the congressional hopeful is abandoning those progressive positions as she approaches a difficult general election campaign.
Vallejo emerged from a tight primary runoff in Texas's 15th Congressional District in May, defeating fellow Democrat Ruben Ramirez by just 30 votes. At the time, the self-described "progressive small business owner" was openly touting her support for Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee, and student debt cancellation—policy positions that landed her endorsements from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.). Vallejo's campaign site also expressed resentment for America's "racist criminal legal system" and called to protect "trans and queer South Texans."
But now, as Vallejo faces an uphill general election battle against Republican Monica De La Cruz, she's running away from the same policies that helped her attract liberal primary voters just a few months ago. Between late July and mid August, internet archives show, the Democrat updated her campaign site to remove all mentions of "Medicare For All," a "federal jobs guarantee program," and the need to "forgive all student loan debt." Vallejo's "LGBTQ+ Justice" section, meanwhile, no longer includes the word "trans," and the Democrat's border policy blurb now calls to invest in the same immigration enforcement system she used to call "racist."
Vallejo's campaign site overhaul is an obvious attempt from the progressive Democrat to rebrand herself as a moderate as she runs in a newly drawn district that President Donald Trump won by nearly 3 points. It's also an implicit admission that the Democratic Party's liberal wing has become too "woke" for many South Texas Hispanics—a development that Republicans say has helped them make inroads in the Rio Grande Valley, a historic Democratic stronghold.
Still, Vallejo's decision to abandon the progressive positions that defined her primary campaign could divide the district's Democratic voters with November fast approaching. In addition to Warren and Jayapal, Vallejo earned a primary election endorsement from Lupe Votes, a liberal South Texas group that supports Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee, student loan cancellation, and other progressive policies. Texas College Democrats also backed Vallejo ahead of the May primary, citing the Democrat's "unapologetically progressive campaign." Neither of those groups returned requests for comment. Vallejo's campaign also did not return a request for comment.
As a whole, almost none of Vallejo's pre-primary policy "priorities" made it to her general election campaign site.
The Democrat's health care section used to be titled "Health Care for All" and included explicit support for a "single-payer universal healthcare system." That section is now labeled "Affordable High Quality Health Care" and replaces the call for Medicare for All with a watered-down pledge to "expand Medicare."
Similarly, Vallejo removed the word "climate" from her energy policy header. She also replaced her support for a Green New Deal-esque "federal jobs guarantee"—which would cost up to $44.6 trillion—with a line touting the "bipartisan infrastructure law that will bring billions of dollars to South Texas."
Vallejo also touts her newfound bipartisan bonafides in her updated policy sections on the southern border and Second Amendment.
Her "Immigration" policy blurb—which used to be titled "Embracing the Border + Immigration Justice"—no longer attacks America's "racist criminal legal system" and calls to "pass a pathway to Citizenship for all 11 million undocumented Americans." Instead, it states the need to make "an investment in border infrastructure" and only naturalize illegal immigrants "who have worked hard, followed the law and contributed to their communities." Vallejo added a line to her "End Gun Violence" section, meanwhile, that ensures voters that the Democrat "grew up shooting at gun ranges and hunting on family ranches" and "strongly supports the bipartisan gun safety bill written by Texas Sen. John Cornyn."
Beyond the border and gun rights, Vallejo's "LGBTQ+ Justice" policy portion once said "lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer South Texans deserve equal protection and justice." It now reads, "Every South Texan deserves equal protection and justice." Furthermore, Vallejo's new segment on "Affordable Education" was once titled "Free Public College and Trade School + Eliminating Student Debt." The Democrat's updated version no longer calls to "forgive all student debt," but it does note that Vallejo is "still paying off her student loans," which she acquired as an Ivy League student at Columbia University in New York City.
There is one policy position, however, that Vallejo is standing by after her primary win. Both her old and new issue pages stress the need to "end mandatory minimum sentencing, cash bail, solitary confinement, private prisons, qualified immunity, and prioritizing investing in mental health resources and services for our community."
Vallejo's decision to abandon her public support for various left-wing policies comes after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added the South Texas congressional hopeful to its "Red to Blue" program, which "arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support to help them continue to develop strong campaigns and win in November." It's unclear if the group had a hand in Vallejo's flip-flopping, as the DCCC did not return a request for comment.
Vallejo will face De La Cruz in November. The Republican in 2020 narrowly lost to incumbent Democrat Vicente Gonzalez in a closer-than-expected race—Gonzalez subsequently opted to run in a nearby district that is more solidly blue. De La Cruz, who describes herself as a "proud small business owner" and "woman of strong faith," has raised $2.9 million to Vallejo's $700,000.