Three Democrats and two Republicans have stepped up to run for House District 118 in a special election in which early voting begins on Monday.

Two-term state Rep. Leo Pacheco resigned from the seat Aug. 19 to take a job at San Antonio College. His resignation led Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special election set for Sept. 28. 

The district, which is more than 70 percent Hispanic, covers much of south Bexar County and curls around to cover parts of the east and northeast. The seat has historically been held by a Democrat, though Republican John Lujan won a special election for HD 118 in January 2016. He held office for less than a year, losing to Democrat Tomas Uresti in November 2016 and Pacheco in 2018.

Hoping to win another special election this time, Lujan has captured the endorsements of conservative groups such as the Texas Alliance for Life and the Associated Republicans of Texas. The other Republican in the race, Adam Salyer, nabbed endorsements from former state GOP chair Allen West and prominent anti-abortion figure Abby Johnson. 

HD-118 candidate John Lujan
House District 118 candidate John Lujan is one of two Republicans in the special election. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
HD-118 candidate Adam Salyer
House District 118 candidate Adam Salyer is one of two Republicans in the special election. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Salyer was the Republican nominee — and the only Republican candidate — for the district in 2020, but lost to Pacheco by 16 points. Nevertheless, he was optimistic about his chances running for the seat once more. 

“It’s gonna boil down to the people are going to decide,” he said. “God will win his race. Now as far as on the Republican side, I absolutely love the other guy. We get along just fine.”

Salyer currently works part-time as a realtor. He previously served two terms as a Universal City council member and was a preacher in Louisiana for nine years and in the U.S. Army for 14.

Lujan owns IT company Sistema Technologies and consulting firm Y&L Consulting. He also spent six years at the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy and 25 years as a firefighter with the San Antonio Fire Department, whose union has endorsed him. He said he originally did not plan to run for the House seat again but joined the race at the urging of friends such as former state Sen. Pete Flores.

“I teach Sunday school class, and I always teach that we’re not responsible for things halfway around the world, we are responsible for what’s in front of us,” he said.

Three Democratic hopefuls

Katie Farias, Desi Martinez, and Frank Ramirez are also hoping to succeed Pacheco in House District 118. Farias, who most recently worked as the district director for state Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio), serves as a board member for Southside Independent School District. Martinez is an attorney based on the South Side with his own law firm; this race marks his first run for office. And Ramirez, who is the youngest candidate in the race at age 27, left his job as director of zoning and planning for San Antonio City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) to enter the race.

  • Desk Martinez is a Democratic candidate in the Texas House District 118 special election.
  • Katie Farias is a Democratic candidate in the Texas House District 118 special election.
  • Frank Ramirez is a Democratic candidate in the Texas House District 118 special election.

Ramirez cited his familiarity with policy on the local level and his past experience as a legislative director and chief of staff for Uresti, who represented the district for one term spanning 2017 and 2019. Those roles make him the most qualified to represent the district, he said.

As a lifelong resident of the city’s South Side, Ramirez said he wants to tackle historic disinvestment in the area.

“Not only are we playing catch up infrastructurally, but we’re catching up with economic development,” Ramirez said. “We’re playing catch up with public education and public health.”

Ramirez has nabbed key endorsements, including support from Pacheco, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and San Antonio City Council members Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) and Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4). Farias boasts the support of two of her fellow Southside ISD trustees, as well as her father-in-law Joe Farias, who represented District 118 from 2006 to 2015.

Farias said she became more engaged with the political process after seeing issues in her children’s school district. She decided to run for the Texas Legislature after watching how the coronavirus pandemic affected her children’s schooling in the past 18 months. 

“​​I really think we need to look at making education a priority,” she said. 

She said she wants to find ways to fund education without relying as much on property tax revenue, as well as increase internet connectivity and infrastructure investment in the district. Martinez also said he wants to see those changes come to HD 118, but acknowledges that income disparities in the district versus others in Bexar County are an obstacle.

“Because we were a lower income-earning area, that affects everything,” he said. “It is a stepping stone from one area to another area of concern, and the common thread is always monetary. … I’ve got to look for a way to help enact something, so that we can help the rising tide [that lifts all boats].”

Early voting begins on Monday and continues through Friday. There are five early voting locations open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Election day is Sept. 28.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.