Valentine’s Day kicks off early voting for the March 1 primary and, as usual, Bexar County voters can visit any early voting site to cast a ballot, regardless of where they live or which primary they choose to vote in.

Because Texas is an open primary state, voters can request either a Republican or Democratic ballot and will have to stick with that party for any runoff elections that may be necessary.

Voters will be choosing party nominees who will face off in the general election on Nov. 8. In races where no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election will be held. Voters must cast ballots for runoff candidates in the same party they voted for in the primary.

Polling locations are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during the first week; on Saturday hours are extended till 8 p.m., and on Sunday, polls are open noon to 6 p.m. They are closed on Monday, Feb. 21, and will open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22, through the final day, Friday, Feb. 25.

Voting by mail is still possible, but applications to request a mail ballot must be received (not postmarked) by the Bexar County Elections Department by Feb. 18; directions for how to complete the form, plus rules for faxing or emailing it, are at the top of the form.

Casting a ballot by mail requires voters to meet one of the following requirements: be 65 or older, be sick or disabled, are expecting to give birth within three weeks of election day, be out of the country during early voting and election day or be confined to jail but otherwise eligible to vote.

Primary ballots are going to be long, with federal, state and county races. In Bexar County, that will include Congressional Districts 20, 21, 23, 28 and 35. Voters will choose Republican or Democratic candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, the State Board of Education, county judge, district attorney and more, including a slew of judicial races.

The Republican ballot also includes 10 “opinion poll” propositions — so termed by the state GOP because voters won’t be casting ballots for new laws but, instead, simply declaring whether they agree or disagree with statements such as “Texas schools should teach students basic knowledge and American exceptionalism and reject Critical Race Theory and other curricula that promote Marxist doctrine and encourage division based on creed, race or economic status” and “Texas should eliminate all property taxes within ten years without implementing a state income tax.”

Sample ballots are online for Bexar County’s Republican party primary and Democratic party primary. For more information about the candidates on the ballot, the nonpartisan, nonprofit League of Women Voters Education Fund powers vote411.org, which allows voters to type in their address to get a personalized ballot, with the ability to click through each rate to see additional information on candidates.

Some county voters will have been redistricted; this Texas Tribune interactive map allows voters to type in their address to see which congressional and legislative districts they live in.

The new maps are being used in this primary even as they face an array of lawsuits, including by the U.S. Department of Justice, arguing that the Republican-controlled Legislature ignored that 95% of the state’s growth came from voters of color and instead drew districts that shored up white voters’ power.

Congressional districts

In Texas’ redrawn Congressional District 35, which covers central and southeastern Bexar County and runs up the Interstate 35 corridor to Austin, former City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran is the only San Antonian running to replace U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), who is running in the newly created 37th District. Viagran’s running in the Democratic primary against former Austin City Councilman Greg Casar, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) and Carla Joy-Cisco, a business consultant.

In Congressional District 28, which includes southeastern Bexar County, longtime U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) is fighting a battle on two fronts. He’s spending big to stave off challenger Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney who came within 4 percentage points of beating Cuellar in 2020. Cuellar also has come out swinging after the FBI raided his home and office, saying the investigation will show he has not committed “any wrongdoing.”

Among the Republicans hoping to flip the seat are San Antonian Willie Vasquez Ng, a former police officer who ran in the 2020 Republican primary for Bexar County sheriff, where he came in second with 30% of the vote to Gerry Rickhoff, who went on to lose to Javier Salazar.

State races

Moderate GOP state Rep. Lyle Larson’s decision not to run for reelection in 2022 leaves Texas House District 122 wide open. Four Republicans are running to replace him: former San Antonio City Councilwoman Elisa Chan, longtime GOP Precinct Chair and former county party Chairman Mark Dorazio, USAA executive Mark Cuthbert and Adam Blanchard, owner of a trucking business who was recently endorsed by Larson.

The winner of the March primary will face Democrat Angi Aramburu, who is running unopposed.

The seat for House District 124 is similarly open; current state Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) is vacating the seat to run for Bexar County judge. Three Democrats are running in the primary, that, given the makeup of the district, means the winner will likely coast to victory in November. Gerald Lopez, who is serving his second term on the Northside Independent School District board of trustees and served as state Rep. Ray Lopez’s (no relation) chief of staff during his two terms as a District 6 city councilman, is running against Josey Garcia, an Air Force veteran, business owner and community advocate, and Steven Gilmore, a defense attorney who said he is running from the “leftmost flank” of the race.

County judge and district attorney

Most of the action in the race to replace retiring County Judge Nelson Wolff is taking place in the Democratic primary, where Minjarez, former Children’s Court Judge Peter Sakai, former mayoral chief of staff Ivalis Meza Gonzalez and court system administrator Gerardo Ponce are vying to be the party’s candidate in November.

And while whoever wins the primary might have coasted into the seat in November, a last-minute filing by Republican Trish DeBerry, who gave up the Precinct 3 Commissioners Court seat she won just over a year ago, means Bexar County residents will witness a robust campaign to replace Wolff. On the Republican ballot, DeBerry is facing Nathan Buchanan, who ran for the Precinct 3 constable position in 2020.

The opposite scenario is playing out in the primary race for Bexar County district attorney. Democratic incumbent Joe Gonzales faces no primary opponent, while Republicans Marc LaHood, a defense attorney and brother of former DA Nico LaHood, and Meredith Chacon, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, face off for the chance to meet Gonzales on the November ballot.

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

Tracy Idell Hamilton

Tracy Idell Hamilton is Story Editor for the San Antonio Report.