Beth Van Duyne, a former Republican mayor and housing official in the Trump administration, on Tuesday defeated Candace Valenzuela, a Democrat, in a House race in suburban Dallas, holding a crucial Republican seat as Ms. Van Duyne’s party fought to add to its numbers in Congress.
Ms. Van Duyne’s win, as called by The Associated Press, was a key victory for Republicans, appearing to close off Democrats’ last hope to pick up a seat in the state despite what had been forecast as a grim year for Republicans as shifting demographics have increasingly made Texas competitive. It also mirrored the results in some other conservative-leaning suburban districts across the country, where despite indications that many voters had been alienated by President Trump and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans appeared to be holding their own and even on track to gain seats.
Ms. Van Duyne, who served in the Trump administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, was previously the mayor of Irving, Tex., the first woman to hold that post. She drew national attention when she was among the officials sued by the family of a Muslim teenager arrested after his homemade digital clock was mistaken for a bomb. (The suit was later dismissed.)
She later emerged as part of a self-branded four-woman “conservative squad,” who styled themselves as the right’s answer to four liberal women who became political celebrities in the 2018 Democratic freshman class, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. She is now slated to be part of the largest group of House Republican women ever elected to Congress in the same year, clearing the previous record of 25 women.
Ms. Van Duyne aligned herself closely with Mr. Trump and defended his handling of the pandemic, and her former boss at HUD, Ben Carson, helped lobby for her in the final days of the campaign.
“People are sick and tired of Congress playing political games and just focusing on attacking each other,” Ms. Van Duyne said in response to questions from The Dallas Morning News that she posted on her website. “I promise to be a voice in Congress that is always focused on getting things done to help us grow and create more opportunities.”
Ms. Valenzuela, a former school board trustee, had sought to flip the seat for Democrats and become the first Afro-Latina to be elected to Congress. The seat was left open after Representative Kenny Marchant, a reliable Republican vote who won re-election in 2018 by just three points, said in the summer of 2019 that he would retire rather than face Ms. Valenzuela.
Ms. Valenzuela had galvanized supporters with her powerful account of surviving homelessness and becoming the first in her family to graduate college, and relied heavily on the strategy that Democrats employed both in 2018 and this year, centering her campaign on defending the Affordable Care Act and criticizing the administration’s response to the pandemic.
She sought to tie Ms. Van Duyne, who was often photographed without a mask while campaigning, to Mr. Trump and his mismanagement of the coronavirus. Ms. Van Duyne, for her part, criticized Ms. Valenzuela for not holding in-person events during the pandemic, even as coronavirus cases continued to spike in the state.