(From left) Steve Huerta, Ray Lopez, Fred Rangel, Coda Rayo-Garza, and Art Reyna are running to represent Texas House District 125.
(From left) Steve Huerta, Ray Lopez, Fred Rangel, Coda Rayo-Garza, and Art Reyna are running to represent Texas House District 125. Credit: Courtesy Images ; Scott Ball and Jackie Wang / San Antonio Report

The Texas Secretary of State on Monday finalized a list of five candidates running to represent Texas House District 125. That seat became vacant when Justin Rodriguez was sworn in as Bexar County Commissioner for Precinct 2, triggering a special election for his former office in the Texas Legislature. The winner would serve the remainder of Rodriguez’s term, which expires in January 2021.

Early voting starts Jan. 28. Election Day is Feb. 12.

Steve Huerta (D)

Steve Huerta is a community organizer. He was formerly incarcerated and co-founded the Youth Alternative to Incarceration Program of the All of Us or None of Us project. Huerta has advised on criminal justice policy, founded the Texas 2nd Chance Democrat Movement to teach other formerly incarcerated people about voting requirements and rights, and serves as the Bexar County Democratic Party rules committee co-chair.

He said he is “running on a platform of change” because San Antonio’s economic growth has left many of the city’s communities behind.

“I strongly believe we have career politicians who are far too distant from the communities they’re serving,” Huerta said.

Ray Lopez (D)

Ray Lopez left the San Antonio City Council in 2017 after serving the maximum four terms as District 6 councilman. He served on the Northside Independent School District board of trustees for three terms. He also worked at AT&T for 34 years, retiring in 2009 as a signature client director.

Lopez said he brings political and governing experience to the table and feels secure in having developed relationships in his time as a city councilman. But name recognition doesn’t always mean a candidate is more likely to be elected, he said.

“If you don’t do a good job, if you haven’t been able to get the right governance, right policy, do the correct outreach, [voters] recognize that you’re not the guy,” he said. “It can be an advantage or disadvantage.”

He said he appreciates what former Reps. Justin Rodriguez and Joaquín Castro, who served as HD 125’s representative from 2003 to 2013, have done for the area. Lopez said he has the experience to help continue and manage the city’s growth as he’s worked on transportation and education in his eight years as city councilman.

Fred Rangel (R)

Fred Rangel is running as the lone Republican in the special election. He owns Adco Master Builders and Adco Professional Services, and works as a design-builder.

He has run for office before, including a City Council race and a bid for vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas. Rangel said he’s ready to tackle school finance and property tax reform should he reach the Texas Legislature.

Rangel said he first noticed school funding disparities when he and his brother attended schools in the Edgewood Independent School District in the 1960s. His brother had to endure classes year-round without air conditioning, while Rangel lacked equipment for his physics class.

“When I saw the opportunity here, I thought, ‘This is the time to speak up, this is the time to begin to make those changes and requests to our school finance program in the state of Texas,’” he said.

He said he’s confident in his support and ability to garner enough votes to win the special election without a runoff. Rangel hired strategist Matt Mackowiak, who helped State Sen. Pete Flores win the special election in September to fill former Sen. Carlos Uresti’s seat, to run his campaign.

“I believe that there is a good probability of a win here, and I’m going after it,” Rangel said.

Coda Rayo-Garza (D)

Coda Rayo-Garza is a policy advocate. She said education is her No. 1 focus, and that the Texas Legislature’s commitment to school finance reform was a sign for her to run.

“It felt like it was the moment,” Rayo-Garza said. “I work at a school district. I see how policy affects teachers, families, schools. The moment is right. The State is having conversations about school finance reform.”

Rayo-Garza said she also prioritizes property tax reform and addressing transportation and mobility issues.

“Bandera Road is the major artery for our district,” she said. “I’ve heard from my neighbors and people I talk to that we need to get this moving so people can spend less time in traffic.”

She chose to kick off her campaign at OP Schnabel Park in northwest San Antonio not only because her children love to play there, but also because it serves as a central gathering place for the community. Rayo-Garza mingled with supporters and her team and handed out yard signs at the park on Sunday. She said she’s not worried about running against candidates with more name recognition.

“I’m confident in the team we have,” she said. “I’m confident in the plan we’ve put together, and I know once I get to talking to people, it’ll resonate. I’m a working-class mom, just like a lot of people in the community.”

Rayo-Garza currently works as the senior coordinator for the deputy superintendent of schools at San Antonio Independent School District. She has previously directed policy for City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), zoning and planning for then-Councilman Ron Nirenberg, and policy and strategic communications for the P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County.

Art Reyna (D)

Art Reyna is no stranger to HD 125. Reyna served as the district’s representative from 1997 to 2003 and as a Leon Valley City Councilman for four terms. If elected, Reyna said he would focus on public education, health care, women’s rights, equality, and justice.

“The public education system is being dismantled by people who are trying to make a profit off of it, and our kids are getting a second-class education,” Reyna said. “Health care is still not affordable for all Texans, especially vulnerable populations like children and the elderly. We have this horrible assault on women’s rights not just here in Texas, but across the country.”

He stressed that his previous years in the Texas House position him to be the most useful representative for the district. The Legislature values seniority, and his three terms count toward that, he said.

Reyna started as a freshman legislator at the same time as newly-elected Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, and his relationship with Bonnen would make him more effective, he said.

“I promise whoever comes in, other than me, does not have that relationship, cannot address [Bonnen] in the same way, approach him in the same way,” he said.

Reyna currently works as an attorney in San Antonio. He has and continues to work for various nonprofits and foundations primarily focused on public education.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.