Monday marks the start of early voting in the July 31 special election to fill the District 19 Texas Senate seat that was held by San Antonio Democrat Carlos Uresti, who resigned in June after being convicted on 11 felony charges.
It’s been less than one month since Gov. Greg Abbott called a special election to replace Uresti, who received a 12-year prison sentence for his conviction on federal fraud and money laundering charges. Uresti, whose political career spanned 22 years, also faces a federal trial on bribery charges later this year.
Four Democrats, three Republicans, and one Libertarian filed for the opportunity to fill the remainder of Uresti’s term, which ends in 2020.
The race for Senate District 19 includes notable Democrats such as State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-119) and former State and U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego. A late Democratic entrant to the race was State Rep. Tomas Uresti (D-118), Carlos Uresti’s older brother who lost a March primary race for his state House seat. The candidate list also includes Republican Pete Flores, a retired game warden who lost to Carlos Uresti in the 2016 general election.
District 19, which has voted reliably Democratic, stretches from the South, East, and West Sides of San Antonio to the U.S.-Mexico border and West Central Texas.
Observers of this race have tagged Gallego and Gutierrez as the frontrunners.
The two Democrats have attacked each other lately: Gallego recently called Gutierrez a tax cheat, while Gutierrez criticized Gallego’s acceptance of a $5,000 campaign donation from an operator of for-profit prisons and immigration detention facilities in 2014.
Gutierrez has secured endorsements from more than 100 current and former Democratic officeholders, including local State Reps. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins and Justin Rodriguez; former State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte; Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar; City Council members Shirley Gonzales (D5), Greg Brockhouse (D6), and John Courage (D9); and former Mayors Phil Hardberger and Ed Garza.
Gallego has revealed only a handful of endorsements. Most recently, former State Rep. and former mayoral hopeful Mike Villarreal and former San Antonio City Councilwoman Leticia Ozuna have announced their backing for Gallego.
Gutierrez is currently winning the fundraising battle. A look at reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission in early July shows Gutierrez raised $184,600 during a period covering Jan. 1-June 21. He had $196,200 cash on hand.
Gallego had raised $173,100 over a period from March 27-June 30 and had $130,000 cash on hand. Vastly underfunded compared to Gutierrez and Gallego, Tomas Uresti reported having less than $50 cash on hand.
Flores had $1,900 cash on hand.
Here’s a look at the candidates who will be on the ballot:
A former Harlandale Independent School District board president, the San Antonio Republican lists few details about his platform on his Facebook page.
The Pleasanton Republican supports many mainstream conservative angles on defending gun ownership rights, pro-life issues, public safety, border security, fewer business regulations and taxes, and budget spending cuts.
An attorney from Alpine, Gallego began his political career with his 1990 election to the Texas House of Representatives.
In 2012, he upset Republican U.S. Rep. Quico Canseco in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District in a close race. Two years later, Helotes’ Will Hurd defeated Gallego, winning the seat back for the Republicans. Gallego lost a rematch with Hurd in 2016.
In his quest for the State Senate, Gallego has been touching upon such issues as less standardized testing in schools, fully funding pre-kindergarten programs, comprehensive infrastructure repairs, improving veterans’ services and healthcare access, and advocating for renewable and clean energies.
State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-119)
The San Antonio attorney says he endorses many traditional liberal issues, such as Medicare expansion, expanding background checks on gun purchases, same-sex marriage, and free community college.
Gutierrez said he also supports improving and better financing public education, restoring cuts made to the State’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, a living wage, improving air quality, and fighting discrimination.
The Democrat living in Poteet grew up on San Antonio’s West Side and has an active local law practice. Jones previously was a geologist for oil drillers, a social case worker, an educator, and a veteran.
His priority issues include better funding for public schools and universities, increased funding for crime prevention and substance abuse programs, environmental protection, property tax reform, protecting land and water rights, job training, and economic innovation.
The Republican realtor and Army veteran is a Westside resident who opposes San Antonio annexing any other parts of unincorporated western Bexar County.
Raymond also calls for cutting waste and abuse in education spending, focusing on better early child development, clean water, efficient and affordable transportation systems, improving police-community relations, school choice, more paths toward legal immigration, and protecting gun ownership rights but with reasonable background checks.
State Rep. Tomas Uresti (D-118)
The elder Uresti worked for Harlandale ISD before being elected to Harlandale’s board of trustees. The Southsider was elected to the State House in 2016 but was upset in the primary shortly after his brother’s convictions were handed down.
Uresti has advocated for improving public education and health care, protecting the environment, upgrading transit and infrastructure, increasing the minimum wage, and addressing women’s issues such as improving reporting procedures following a sexual assault.
The lone Libertarian in the race is a Northwest Side resident and senior reporting analyst for USAA Bank. He ran for the San Antonio District 8 Council seat last year.
Valdivia’s platform includes ending corporate welfare, restructuring how schools are financed and operated, legalizing marijuana, improving veterans’ services, and protecting property rights.
Early voting will continue from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. July 16-July 21 and July 23-25, from 12-6 p.m. on July 22, and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on July 26 and 27. Election day is July 31. Polling details can be found here.