This article has been updated.

Former county district Judge Peter Sakai and state Rep. Ina Minjarez were set for a runoff election in May, according to unofficial results Tuesday in the Democratic primary to replace Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff as the county’s chief executive.

Sakai received 40.6% of the vote while Minjarez received 30.8%.

Ivalis Meza Gonzalez, Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s former chief of staff, received 18.9%. Gerardo Ponce, the fourth Democratic candidate, garnered 9.7%.

Since none of the candidates received more than 50% of the vote, the top two will head to a May 24 runoff that will decide whose name will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Republican Trish DeBerry, who served as Precinct 3’s county commissioner until stepping down to run for county judge, scored a commanding victory over fellow Republican Nathan Buchanan, grabbing 62.9% of the vote.

Wolff, a Democrat, will retire next year after more than 20 years as county judge. Only one Republican has ever been elected Bexar County judge, Wolff’s predecessor, Cyndi Taylor Krier. 

“Obviously, we would have liked to have won this outright, but we knew we [were] in a tough race,” Sakai said during his election watch party at Los Barrios Mexican Restaurant. “I have some very formidable opponents, and I give them great respect.”

He called Minjarez a “wonderful lady” and said he expects the tone of the runoff to be “professional.” Still, he said, he deserves to be the next judge based on his credentials.

The 67-year-old jurist was appointed to the Bexar County Children’s Court in 1995 and elected in 2006 to the 225th District Court. He served as the administrative judge and supervised the children’s court and programs.

“I think it’s my 26 years of being a district court judge and being innovative and out-of-the-box,” he said. “We’ve got to have somebody that has experience, has the knowledge, has the character and reputation. And that’s what I bring to the voters of Bexar County.”

Bexar County Judge Candidate Peter Sakai celebrates promising early voting numbers with his family at Los Barrios Mexican Restaurant on Tuesday.
Bexar County Judge Candidate Peter Sakai celebrates promising early voting numbers with his family at Los Barrios Mexican Restaurant on Tuesday. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Minjarez, 46, worked as an assistant district attorney for Bexar County and eventually opened her own law firm. In 2015 she won a special election to fill House District 124. She won again in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

“We anticipated a runoff, you know, being that I’m not well-known throughout the county — I’m very well known in House District 124,” Minjarez said during her party Tuesday night at Acadiana Cafe. “We’re exactly where we wanted to be tonight.”

Nirenberg, who previously endorsed Meza Gonzalez, said though it wasn’t her night, he was proud of her.

“She put it all out there,” he said. “She did incredible work for my office as chief of staff and I’m grateful for her efforts there, and I’m proud of the work she did on this campaign.”

Asked whether he will issue an endorsement in the runoff, Nirenberg responded, “I know both of them. I have respected both of their careers and service, and I’m looking forward to the next phase of the campaign because the county judge seat is critically important for our community, especially as it relates to the collaboration we have daily in the city.”

For additional local primary results, click here.

District attorney

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales, a Democrat, is running unopposed in the primary, but he will face a Republican challenger in November.

That challenger will be local attorney Marc LaHood, who defeated former prosecutor Meredith Chacon by receiving 62.6% of the vote. LaHood is the brother of former district attorney Nico LaHood, whom Gonzales defeated in the 2018 Democratic primary.

Raquel Torres contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Ina Minjarez’s husband, Leo Gomez, sits on the San Antonio Report’s board of directors.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org