Bill Clinton stumps in South Texas for Democrats ahead of Election Day

Former President Bill Clinton joins a rally to support Democratic U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada on Nov. 6 in Las Vegas. (Reuters/David Swanson, Reuters/David Swanson)

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Former President Bill Clinton made a last-minute push Monday for Democratic congressional candidates locked in tight races across South Texas.

Clinton traveled to Laredo in the morning to stump for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and then went to the Rio Grande Valley to boost Michelle Vallejo, who is running for an open seat. At both stops, Clinton sought to dispel Republican talking points on inflation and crime that are driving the election, and he warned the GOP could gut the social safety net and Obamacare if they take back the U.S. House majority.

Republicans are targeting three House seats in South Texas, hoping to gain new ground with Hispanic voters. Clinton said Democratic victories could help the national party to shore up its commitment to the region, which some Democrats believe it has neglected in recent years.

"If you send Michelle to Congress, it will send a loud message," Clinton said. "If you send all three of these people to Congress, you not only will never be ignored again by the national party, they may move everything down here."

In addition to Cuellar and Vallejo, Clinton threw his support to U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, saying in a digital ad that Gonzalez will "protect Social Security and Medicare, something the other party has promised to cut." Clinton first helped out Cuellar by recording a robocall that went out over the weekend.

Clinton is not the only national political figure to campaign in South Texas in recent days. U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Ronna McDaniel, head of the national Republican Party, were in McAllen on Sunday evening for a rally with all three GOP candidates. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., campaigned for Vallejo last week.

In Edinburg, Clinton repeatedly brought up the GOP focus on crime and inflation in the Tuesday election, but said Republicans "don’t have anything like the record on crime that we established [in the White House] or the record on economic growth." And he repeatedly invoked the potential next speaker of the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has raised concerns that a GOP majority could pursue cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

"They're coming for you and you've got to believe it," Clinton said.

The Republican contenders — all Hispanic women — ridiculed Clinton’s visit, invoking his history as a womanizer, including his sexual relationship with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

“We are not the least bit surprised that Cartel Cuellar is bringing a sinvergüenza to South Texas to try to take down a young woman, but it won’t work,” said Brittany McGivern, a spokesperson for the campaign of Cuellar's GOP opponent, Cassy Garcia.

“Sinvergüenza” is Spanish word whose meaning is similar to “scoundrel” in English.

Garcia alluded to the debate over entitlements in a statement after Clinton's visit, saying the 28th District needs "a new leader who will work hard to lower prices, protect Social Security, and put our families ahead of political parties.”

Vallejo is running against Republican Monica De La Cruz, who recently invoked Clinton in an op-ed, lamenting that Democrats have drifted away from his ‘pro-growth’ message that was popular with Latinos.”

Clinton was popular in South Texas during his presidential campaigns. For example, he won 77% of the vote in Webb County, home to Laredo, in 1996, while Biden carried it with only 61% in 2020.

The Clintons have also long boasted a special connection to Texas, where they worked together on George McGovern’s presidential campaign in the 1970s.

"Hillary and I fell in love with South Texas and we have been ever since," Clinton said in Edinburg, "and whenever the Democrats in Washington took their eyes off South Texas, we tried to put them back on."

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Correction, Nov. 7, 2022: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of the Democratic candidate running for Congress in District 15. Her name is Michelle Vallejo, not Michelle Valejo.