This story has been updated.
Former Judge Peter Sakai defeated Republican Trish DeBerry in the race to replace retiring Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in Tuesday’s election.
Sakai, a Democrat, finished with 57.3% of the vote, and DeBerry, a former county commissioner, trailed with 39.4%. She conceded at her election party at Aligned Mortgage on Summit Parkway.
“We fought the good fight,” DeBerry told supporters. “Clearly it was a very good day for Democrats across the board.”
Sakai spoke to his supporters Tuesday night at House of Nizam restaurant on Fredericksburg Road.
“I am committed to leading Bexar County and making sure that everyone can find their dreams and passions,” he said. “We do that by listening and understanding each other.”
“As the Bible dictates, we must take care of the least of us. Let us care and give compassion to others,” Sakai said. “We must make our community a better place for our children and grandchildren. That will be my legacy.”
Sakai will take over a role Wolff has held since 2001. Only one Republican has even had the job, Cyndi Taylor Krier, Wolff’s immediate predecessor.
Sakai grew up in McAllen and attended law school at the University of Texas. He spent 26 years working on cases related to child abuse and neglect, first as an associate judge, then as an elected judge in Bexar County’s 225th civil court.
He resigned to run for county judge late last year, citing a desire to work on solutions to some of the systemic problems he witnessed in his courtroom. He advanced from a three-way Democratic primary to a runoff with state Rep. Ina Minjarez, whom he defeated with 58% of the vote.
“My platform has focused on children and families because that’s where I’ve been, and that’s where I’m going,” Sakai said in an interview last week. Though the shift means stepping into a more partisan role, Sakai said, “my strength is to bring people together.”
DeBerry is a longtime communications professional and business owner who represented Precinct 3 on the Commissioners Court for 11 months before making a last-minute decision to run for county judge. Despite the uphill nature of the race in a deeply blue county, DeBerry said she believed it would be a favorable environment for Republicans and raised considerable campaign funds from her connections in the business community.
In late September, the otherwise collegial race took a sharply negative turn when a series of anonymous ads attacked DeBerry on TV and through the mail. Few details are known about the ads, including how much money was behind them, but DeBerry’s fundraising plummeted in the weeks after she sought to accuse her professional and political opponents.
Wolff, who had stayed quiet for the primary and most of the campaign, endorsed Sakai in the final weeks.
Bexar County district attorney
Gonzales, a Democrat, finished with 56%, to LaHood’s 44%.
Foremost on Gonzales’ mind during his victory speech at Backyard on Broadway were two contentious issues, criminal justice reform and abortion rights.
“Abortion is top of mind for a lot of women, and a lot of men as well,” he said after addressing the crowd. “I was very vocal at my disappointment with the Dobbs decision and I articulated that I would abide by my obligation, but then seek justice. And I just don’t see the justice in prosecuting a woman for making a decision about her own body.”
Regarding gun violence, Gonzales said, “We’re doing everything we can to keep our communities safe while at the same time moving the ball down field with criminal justice reforms, which is what we will continue to do.”
Concluding his speech, Gonzales led the crowd in a chant of “Four more years!‘’
Conceding the race, LaHood said, “My only hope is that the criticism we brought up about working with the police to enforce the law… I hope Joe actually does something with that.”
Elected in 2018, Gonzales defeated incumbent Nico LaHood, Marc LaHood’s brother, in an expensive Democratic primary that year, and used the role to implement reforms aimed at reducing the number of nonviolent offenders serving time in jail.
Republicans targeted Gonzales’ first reelection race with TV ads attacking him as soft on crime and unwilling to partner with law enforcement. LaHood picked up support from police unions and raised enough money to cause concern among Gonzales’ allies.
Nicholas Frank contributed to this report.