A dispute over endorsements is the latest skirmish in a contentious race for the Texas House of Representatives in District 121.

The rematch between first-term Republican state Rep. Steve Allison and Democrat Celina Montoya has been marked by big spending on both sides, and education has emerged as a key issue.

During a press conference Tuesday, Montoya called Allison’s latest television ad against her misleading. The ad claims Montoya is lying about her support from the Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Officials from Allison’s campaign maintain that the ad is accurate and accused Montoya of trying to exaggerate the level of her support from state educators. 

Organizers from three local chapters of AFT – the Bexar County Federation of Teachers, Northside American Federation of Teachers, and the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel – confirmed their groups have endorsed Montoya. The chapters represent educators from San Antonio Independent School District, Northside ISD, North East ISD, and South San ISD.

At the press conference, Montoya called for Allison to pull down the attack ad and “set the record straight.”

“One of the things that my kids learn in school is … character education is extremely important,” Montoya said. “It’s probably time for [Allison] to take a look at that curriculum again.”

While these affiliate AFT chapters have endorsed Montoya, Texas AFT – the statewide organization that oversees 38 local unions and regional offices – has not, said Craig Murphy, president of political consulting firm Murphy Nasica and a spokesman for Allison’s campaign. 

Murphy said Allison’s television ad correctly states that a mailer ad Montoya distributed is false. 

“She put the logo of Texas AFT on her mailings,” Murphy said. “She’s claiming they endorsed her, which they have not; in fact, most education endorsements have gone to Steve.”

“Just go to their website – she’s clearly not endorsed by them,” he added. 

Texas AFT Communications Director Rob D’Amico confirmed that Texas AFT has not endorsed either Montoya or Allison. The Texas State Teachers Association and Texas Parent political action committee have endorsed Allison, according to his campaign.

Allison, a former Alamo Heights ISD school board member, has made his case for reelection by touting his accomplishments in support of education. He was a member of the House Public Education Committee, which produced the sweeping House Bill 3 in 2019 that boosted school funding and raised teacher pay.

Texas State Rep. Steve Allison (R-121) Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Meanwhile, Montoya has blasted Allison for joining Texas Republicans in blocking expansion of Medicaid, and a mailing from the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety attempted to tie Allison to mass shootings in Texas because of his stance on gun control legislation.

A poll conducted this month by Reform Austin, an independent Texas political news website, had Allison leading the race by 8 percentage points, with 10 percent undecided. 

State Democrats are hoping to flip the district, which has been long held by Republicans. Prior to Allison’s 8-point victory in 2018, former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus had held the seat from 2005 to 2018. 

District 121 covers parts of North Central and Northeast San Antonio, as well as the cities of Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills, and Olmos Park.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...