This article has been updated.
Republican John Lujan will get another shot at reclaiming his former Texas House seat after he secured a place Tuesday in a special election runoff against Democrat Frank Ramirez in Texas House District 118.
Lujan, who represented the district in 2016 and has made several unsuccessful attempts to regain it, pulled in 2,938 votes, or 41.5%, to lead the five-candidate field seeking to claim the seat vacated by Democrat Leo Pacheco last month. Democrat Frank Ramirez nabbed the other spot in the runoff with 1,416 votes, or 20%, according to unofficial results with all vote centers reporting. Desi Martinez, another Democrat, was in third place with 1,244 votes, or 17.6%.
In a special election, the two candidates with the most votes continue on to a runoff. Pacheco, a two-term Democrat, stepped down from his seat in August to take a job with San Antonio College, and Republicans hoped to flip the seat. The district, which is 70% Hispanic, covers much of south Bexar County and includes parts of the east and northeast, and has historically been represented by Democrats.
Democrat Katie Farias finished the night with with 854 votes, or 12.1%, while Republican Adam Salyer had 623 votes, or 8.8%.
Tuesday’s results are not finalized; the Bexar County Elections Department will accept mail-in ballots as late as Wednesday as long as the ballot was postmarked by 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Voter turnout was almost evenly split by party — 3,514 people voted for Democratic candidates, while 3,561 people voted for Republicans. In a historically Democratic district, those numbers signal heightened GOP interest and foreshadow a potential repeat of the 2016 special election for HD 118.
Lujan held the HD 118 seat briefly in 2016 after winning a special election that year, and this election marked his fourth try at representing the district. Lujan ran during a regular election in 2016 and lost to Tomas Uresti, and again in 2018 but lost to Pacheco.
“We kind of predicted the runoff, and I was hoping I would be in a good first place and it looks like we are,” Lujan said while driving to his election night watch party in Universal City. “We still have a tough road ahead of us.”
Ramirez served as chief of staff for Uresti and most recently worked as the director of zoning and planning for San Antonio City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7). He left that job to enter the race.
“We made sure that we were going to where the people were, and that’s the name of this race — ensuring that the residents of District 118 understand that there’s a representative out there who’s willing to listen to them and to support them and represent them as their job,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez had garnered a substantial amount of support during the truncated campaign, scooping up endorsements from Pacheco, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, City Council members Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) and Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4), and the San Antonio Express-News’ editorial board. Though early vote results put Ramirez 11 votes behind second place, his campaign manager Ryan Garcia was optimistic. He pointed out that Ramirez had done better with in-person voters, and that trend continued with election day voters: 607 people voted for Ramirez on election day, while only 424 voted for Martinez.
Ramirez joined around 75 supporters at the Aquaduck Beer Garden on the South Side Tuesday night, where they celebrated and ate brisket made by some of his friends. He said his campaign team would take up their work once more on Wednesday.
“I don’t think that ‘rest’ is a word in our vocabulary right now,” he said.
Martinez, an attorney who owns a law firm on the South Side, sought to show himself as someone familiar with the legal world and fighting for his clients — or in this case, his constituents.
“I’ve been telling the team, there’s nothing more we could have done with the limited amount of time we had,” he said. “We’ve worked 24/7. We shook all the hands we could in that limited amount of time.”