Ray Lopez (center, right) greets friends at his watch party before the final votes are counted.
Democrat Ray Lopez greets friends at his watch party as the votes started coming in. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Democrat Ray Lopez has risen to victory after an early lead in the race against Republican Fred A. Rangel in a race for Texas House District 125.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Lopez, a former San Antonio councilman, received 5,311 votes, or 58 percent, compared to businessman and Republican precinct Chair Rangel’s 3,780 votes, or 42 percent.

Lopez, 69, and Rangel, 64, had emerged as leaders in a special election that narrowed the field from five candidates – four Democrats and Rangel. Rangel received the most votes in the first round with 38 percent to Lopez’s 19.5 percent.

In a victory speech that followed appearances by Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro and State Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), Lopez said he was excited to go to Austin and show Republicans that “we’re not evil.”

“You don’t have the corner on religion,” Lopez said, addressing the other side of the aisle. “You don’t have the corner on righteousness. And you sure don’t have the corner on caring. That’s us.”

Lopez came out ahead in the early vote total and held onto his lead throughout the night. As results rolled in around 8:30 p.m., Rangel told the Rivard Report that he planned to continue serving his community as he has for the last 25 years on various civic boards and committees.

Rangel expressed pride that he had run a campaign that did not turn negative.

Fred Rangel is comforted by friends after early voting results are displayed.
Friends comfort Fred A. Rangel after the release of the early vote totals put him behind in the race. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

“When you do, people get turned off,” he said. “Little do [candidates] know that now they’re encouraging people not to vote because they hate it.”

Both candidates experienced their first race against an opponent of another party. Lopez is a former Northside Independent School District board member who served four two-year terms on the San Antonio City Council, whose members are elected on a nonpartisan basis. Rangel, who runs architectural design and construction businesses Adco Professional Services and Adco Master Builders, has served various Republican Party roles and has run for the San Antonio City Council.

The runoff is a result of the shifting roles that came after the death of Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo. Commissioners appointed then-Democratic State Rep. Justin Rodriguez to replace Elizondo, leaving Rodriguez’s position up for grabs.

Lopez and Rangel both focused their messaging heavily on school finance reform, an issue that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott proclaimed an emergency item for the Texas Legislature, along with property tax reform.

Rangel called these two issues “nonpartisan issues” but added that his “perspective on school finance reform is about the students, where [Lopez’s] favors the teachers unions.”

Asked earlier in the night to name a school finance reform strategy he supports that Republicans could also get behind, Lopez immediately rattled off an idea to extend oil and gas severance tax funding to the Texas Department of Transportation to free up funding for the rest of the state budget, including education. He said the state should also work to improve returns on the state’s Permanent School Fund, among other ideas.

Lopez now heads to Austin with the Legislature in full swing, with the regular session set to end on May 27.

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.