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Top GOP congressional candidate in Texas accused of abusing teenage daughter of estranged husband

Jordan De La Garza, left, and Nidia Garza campaign for Republican congressional candidate Monica De La Cruz on the last day of early voting in McAllen, Tex., on Oct. 30, 2020.
Jordan De La Garza, left, and Nidia Garza campaign for Republican congressional candidate Monica De La Cruz on the last day of early voting in McAllen, Tex., on Oct. 30, 2020. (Julia Robinson for the Washington Post)

A star Republican congressional candidate in Texas was accused last month by her estranged husband in court documents of “cruel and aggressive conduct” toward his 14-year-old daughter, including verbal abuse and pinching the child to stop her from crying.

Monica De La Cruz, a candidate for the 15th Congressional District in Texas, was picked this week by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as a “young gun,” a designation given by the party to candidates who “have met a series of rigorous goals and surpassed program benchmarks to establish a clear path to victory.”

She announced last week on Twitter that she was going through a divorce from her husband, Johnny Hernandez.

“This is not what anyone wants or expects when getting married but we believe this is the best decision. We are dealing with some mental health issues in our family & would appreciate your prayers and support,” De La Cruz wrote. “I remain committed to being a devoted, loving mother to my children and humbly ask for privacy for our family during this difficult time.”

Hernandez, who has been married to De La Cruz since 2015, has accused her of mistreating him and his daughter in documents filed in the Hidalgo County District Court. In one incident described in the petition for divorce, Hernandez says that on a recent Sunday at church, his daughter began crying after some coffee was spilled. He alleges that De La Cruz took her to the bathroom and pinched her to stop her from crying, rather than try to console her.

Hernandez also claimed in a court document that De La Cruz was verbally abusive to his daughter. He said that in August, De La Cruz said she would divorce him if he brought the child, who has at times been hospitalized, back to live at their home.

“Unfortunately, it got to that point where I had to make a decision for the best sake of my daughter,” Hernandez said in an interview Tuesday. “She didn’t want to go to parenting classes, and she didn’t want to make things better for my daughter.”

Hernandez also said De La Cruz should remove the tweet referring to his daughter from her campaign Twitter account. The couple has no biological children, and De La Cruz has two other children from a previous marriage.

“I believe that she is putting her campaign in front of our family,” he said. “She is using my daughter for sympathy votes. My daughter is going through mental health issues, and she should not be using that on her campaign page. She needs to take that down.”

De La Cruz said in a statement to The Washington Post that the accusations are “false, and I’m heartbroken that as we work through some mental health issues that involve a minor this deeply personal matter is now being exposed in the national press. My number one concern will always be the well-being of all of my children, and I would appreciate your prayers and continue to ask for privacy for our family.”

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A spokesperson for McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment, and a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Campaign declined to comment. A spokesperson for the De La Cruz campaign referred to her tweet last week when asked for a comment.

De La Cruz and Hernandez previously worked together at a pumping services company, Navi Business Group. She ran against Rep. Vicente Gonzalez Jr. (D-Tex.) in the 2020 cycle, coming about 3 percentage points short of victory.

Gonzalez has since announced that he will compete in 2022 in a neighboring congressional district, placing De La Cruz in contention for a competitive open seat and a key pickup opportunity for her party. She attended a National Republican Congressional Committee fundraiser in Tampa on Monday, where former president Donald Trump addressed donors.

Despite the support of national Republicans, De La Cruz will face a challenge in the GOP primary from Mauro Garza, an area business executive, and Ryan Krause, who ran against her in the primary in 2020.

According to court documents, De La Cruz agreed to move out of the family home on Oct. 19.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.