Aside from the high-profile gubernatorial contest between Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke, here are Bexar County races to watch in the final stretch of the 2022 midterm. Early voting continues through Nov. 4, and Election Day is Nov. 8.
Bexar County judge
Democrat Peter Sakai and Republican Trish DeBerry are battling to succeed retiring Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who has held the seat since 2001. Wolff’s predecessor Cyndi Taylor Krier is the only Republican to have held the role, and the GOP hasn’t won Bexar County since Abbott was on the gubernatorial ballot against then-state Sen. Wendy Davis in 2014.
Despite an uphill challenge for DeBerry, money has flowed in for both candidates, who are both campaigning aggressively and running ads on TV. DeBerry has weathered a barrage of anonymous attacks in the final stretch and launched some aggressive ads of her own online. The Republican plans to campaign this week with Abbott, as the governor remains ahead of O’Rourke in recent public polling.
Sakai, a former children’s court judge, has decades of experience in the judicial system the county judge oversees. He’s campaigning on a plan to create a public internet utility and says his extensive experience working with families and children will help him address systemic problems such as poverty, domestic violence and homelessness.
DeBerry is a longtime public relations professional who served on the Commissioners Court for 11 months before filing to run for county judge just minutes before the deadline. She’s campaigning on a plan to move the county jail to develop the West Side, as well as combine local health care resources with the city.
Through numerous debates and forums, DeBerry and Sakai laid out very different plans for addressing problems with the county jail, rising property taxes and reining in a $2.9 billion budget that will no longer include federal pandemic relief when the next county judge takes office.
Bexar County district attorney
District Attorney Joe Gonzales is seeking a second four-year term, after unseating incumbent Nico LaHood in the Democratic primary in 2018. Gonzales ran on a plan to deprioritize some low-level offenses, such as marijuana possession, and implemented a cite-and-release policy that has diverted more than 6,200 low-level offenders from going to jail.
He faces a challenge from Republican Marc LaHood, a local attorney and the brother of Nico LaHood. Marc LaHood is campaigning on a plan to undo Gonzales’ changes and crack down on crimes like theft and trespassing, which he says have caused the public to feel less safe. Public safety is a message national Republicans are finding success with across the county this election cycle, and LaHood is leaning hard on his endorsements from law enforcement groups.
Gonzales’ first campaign was fueled by an influx of cash from a political action committee funded by George Soros, who gave big to progressive district attorney candidates across the country. Some of those candidates have since faced backlash from voters amid rising violent crime that experts say is occurring nationwide in the wake of a pandemic, not just in counties with progressive DAs.
The Texas Justice and Public Safety PAC, which helped Gonzales in 2018, initially laid low this election cycle but began running TV ads for him this month, according to contracts with a local TV station.
Commissioners Court Precinct 3
Democrat Susan Korbel and Republican Grant Moody are competing to replace DeBerry, who left the seat to run for county judge. The seat is currently occupied by Commissioner Marialyn Barnard, who was appointed by Wolff to fill the vacancy.
Precinct 3 is the only seat on the court that’s been known to draw Republican winners in recent years. Moody emerged from a spirited nominating process in which precinct chairs selected him as their nominee in July. He’s a former Marine pilot who currently serves as director of innovation and low carbon fuels at Valero. He previously worked at USAA and consulted for McKinsey & Co.
Korbel owns her own public opinion firm and has long been active in Democratic politics. She’s currently a Democratic precinct chair and served as an Alamo Colleges District trustee. Earlier in her career, she worked in business development and served as a station manager and marketing director at KENS television networks.
Texas House District 118
Republican state Rep. John Lujan is running for reelection after winning the seat in a special election last year. He’s the only Republican to have represented the district, but Lujan hasn’t yet served in a biennial legislative session since he was elected in November.
He faces a rematch against Democrat Frank Ramirez, who took roughly 48% in the special election. Ramirez worked for two San Antonio City Council members and served as chief of staff for then-state Rep. Tomas Uresti, who defeated Lujan when the Republican briefly held the seat in 2016.
The race is considered one of the most competitive state House contests this year, and it had already drawn more campaign spending by the beginning of October than the last two election cycles combined. House Speaker Dade Phelan and a national Republican group are spending big to protect Lujan, who plans to campaign with Abbott days before the election.
Democrats are scrambling to help Ramirez, who has raised far less money but has teachers unions and other labor groups campaigning on his behalf.
Texas House District 121
Republican state Rep. Steve Allison has held the seat since former House Speaker Joe Straus retired in 2018. He faces Democrat Becca Moyer DeFelice, a former nonprofit consultant and gun safety advocate who is seeking to change voters’ perception of him as a moderate. DeFelice ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2020.
House leadership is also spending big to help Allison in a district Republicans say could be heavily impacted by national political headwinds, such as the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.
Allison’s campaign is confident the former president of the Alamo Heights Independent School District board can withstand any political headwinds. Meanwhile, DeFelice is getting some help from labor groups that are attacking Allison over his support for anti-abortion legislation he sponsored in the Texas House.
Texas House District 122
Former Bexar County GOP Chair Mark Dorazio emerged from a crowded Republican primary as his party’s nominee to replace retiring state Rep. Lyle Larson. While Larson was among the Republican Party’s last unabashed moderates, Dorazio, who led the county party’s efforts to censure Straus, is likely to chart a far more socially conservative path.
Dorazio has run a low-key campaign since the primary, avoiding public forums and media interviews. He received big financial help from the anti-GOP establishment Defend Texas Liberty PAC in an expensive primary runoff against former San Antonio Councilwoman Elisa Chan.
Democrat Angi Aramburu is a public relations professional who owns her own fitness company and served on Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s Fitness Council. Aramburu is courting moderate Republicans with her campaign, hoping to win over voters who supported Larson but don’t align with the conservative Dorazio. Libertarian Stephanie Berlin is also on the ballot.
U.S. House District 23
Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales is up against Democrat John Lira in his bid for a second term. Though the race has flown under the radar compared to a handful of potential GOP pickups in the Rio Grande Valley, it features an unusual conservative, independent candidate who has been campaigning to Gonzales’ right.
Gonzales is a U.S. Navy veteran who sits on the House Appropriations Committee. He bucked his party on a gun safety bill after the shooting at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School, which is in his district, and has since come under fire from some local Republican groups. The Republican Party of Bexar County sought to censure him this year and was unsuccessful.
Frank Lopez Jr., a former Border Patrol agent and former chairman of the Val Verde County Republican party, is running as an independent and has been campaigning on Gonzales’ turf, San Antonio.
Lira is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who worked at the Small Business Administration and National Commission on Military, National and Public Service. He’s trying to flip the seat after Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones tried and failed twice, once against Gonzales and once against his predecessor, former Rep. Will Hurd.
Lira’s campaign hasn’t drawn the kind of national attention that Ortiz Jones’ did, as Democrats seek to defend a large number of incumbents this election cycle.
U.S. House District 28
Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar again survived a primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros this year, temporarily dampening Republicans’ plans to target his seat. Cuellar had been the target of an FBI raid at the beginning of the year, and Republicans believed Cisneros’ liberal views could have made the district a vulnerable target.
Those hopes seemed to fade when Cuellar advanced from the primary, but less than a month from the election, national Republicans targeted Cuellar on TV with ads attacking him. GOP challenger Cassy Garcia, a longtime staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz, is a strident conservative who grew up near the border, in Edinburg, and now lives in Selma. She campaigned with the chair of the House GOP’s campaign arm in Schertz on Tuesday and raised $1.6 million to Cuellar’s $840,000 in the most recent reporting period.
Cuellar has represented the district since 2004 and is the only Texas Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. He’s getting help from national Democrats’ House campaign arm, which is also on TV with ads.
Cuellar was reelected with 58.3% of the vote in 2020, and President Joe Biden carried the district by 52.8%. Under the district’s new lines, Biden would have carried it by 7%, according to an analysis by the Texas Tribune.
This story has been updated to correct the city in which Cassy Garcia resides.