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This article has been updated.
In an overwhelming upset, Rebeca Clay-Flores defeated incumbent Pct. 1 Commissioner Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez in a Democratic runoff Tuesday night, joining another runoff winner in a commissioners race, Pct. 3’s Trish DeBerry, on the November ballot.
DeBerry was victorious in her Republican runoff against Tom Rickhoff, according to the unofficial results that do not yet include mail-in ballots.
If Clay-Flores and DeBerry continue their winning ways in November, it would mark just the second time in the court’s more than 100-year history that two women would occupy seats on the court at the same time. Only two women have served on the court previously.
The commissioners court will get its first female member in almost 20 years regardless, with DeBerry set to face Democrat Christine Hortick in November.
Clay-Flores, a special projects manager for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District employee, dominated Rodriguez in the runoff, grabbing more than 60 percent of the early vote and hanging on to her lead as the election day vote came in. She finished with almost 62 percent of the vote.
She held off celebrating until about 10 p.m. when she stepped outside her Southside campaign headquarters to shout, “Hallelujah!”
Rodriguez was seeking a fifth term on the commissioners court. Incumbents typically have a big advantage over first-time challengers – there are no term limits or campaign contribution caps for commissioners court candidates. Rodriguez has held the seat, which covers South and West San Antonio, since 2004. He did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday night.
“I decided to run because we need people who really care about this community and are going to fight for resources,” Clay-Flores told the Rivard Report. “I think he’s taken our votes for granted.”
She’s been block-walking – with a mask on – for months, her small, grassroots campaign energized by forcing Rodriguez into a runoff. She credited the win to her campaign staff and volunteers.
“God led me to the right people,” said Clay-Flores, who was born into poverty and has been homeless. “I have the best, hardest working, most intelligent, strategic planning campaign manager – also a [Brackenridge High School] alum,” Clay-Flores said of campaign manager Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe.
Gonzales-Wolfe unsuccessfully ran for the District 8 seat on City Council in 2019. Clay-Flores said Gonzales-Wolfe was the only woman who told her to go for it.
“The only promise I made is to be present and accountable,” Clay-Flores said. “I can’t claim to know what all the issues are. … This is a very diverse precinct. I don’t plan to be in the office a lot. I plan to be out in the community.”
Clay-Flores is a former teacher and has worked for former Mayor Ivy Taylor. She will face Republican Gabriel Lara, a retired paramedic, in November in the traditionally Democrat-dominated Precinct 1.
“I used all of my vacation time to run this campaign,” she said. “Mayor Ron Nirenberg said I could take tomorrow off.”
State Rep. Roland Gutierrez’s state Senate campaign against Xochil Peña Rodriguez, who is Chico Rodriguez’s niece, also may have played a role in Clay-Flores’ win, said Bert Santibañez, data director for Clay-Flores’ campaign.
Gutierrez criticized his opponent’s father, former Congressman and current Justice of the Peace Ciro Rodriguez, for campaigning for his daughter. State law prohibits sitting judges from endorsing political candidates.
“Roland’s campaign helped,” Santibañez said. “The sentiment [towards the Rodriguez family] changed in the South Side.”
In Pct. 3, Deberry pulled ahead of Rickhoff, a former judge, with more than 55 percent of the early vote and maintained her lead as the night went on, closing with 54 percent.
The two fiscal conservatives were vying to replace Commissioner Kevin Wolff, the lone Republican on the court, who will retire after 12 years. Precinct 3 has been represented by a Republican commissioner since 1965.
“I’m gratified,” DeBerry said. “We worked really hard.”
After Rickhoff garnered the most votes in the March primary, the coronavirus pandemic kept both candidates from conducting a typical campaign. “We couldn’t campaign the way we wanted to,” DeBerry said, adding that she did volunteer work and kept herself visible in the community during the pandemic.
Rickhoff, whose brother Gerry won the Republican nomination for Bexar County sheriff in March, is a former appeals court and probate judge who sought to oust Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff of his seat in 2018. Rickhoff did not return a request for comment Tuesday night.
DeBerry is the founder and CEO of the public relations firm DeBerry Group. She unsuccessfully ran for San Antonio mayor in 2009.
The Commissioners Court is responsible for Bexar County’s budget ($1.7 billion for 2019-2020), taxes, revenue, and most personnel decisions, except for certain elected or appointed positions.
Four Democrats were vying for Bexar County constable positions on the November ballot.
Former Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela inadvertently resigned from the seat last year as the FBI and Texas Rangers raided her office when she announced plans to run for Bexar County Sheriff. She was later indicted on felony and misdemeanor charges and received just 12 percent of the Democratic primary that Gerry Rickhoff won.
In Pct. 4, Kathryn Brown received 69 percent of the vote against Mike “Chief” Ramirez. Brown will join Republican Larry Rickets on the November ballot to replace outgoing Constable Stan Ramos, a Democrat.
Constables have the same powers and responsibility of police officers or deputy sheriffs, but they primarily execute civil orders including County courts such as the Justice of the Peace Courts and District Courts.