Roland Gutierrez (left) and Elizabeth "Liz" Campos. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone and Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) defeated Xochil Peña Rodriguez Tuesday in what has been a contentious battle to secure the Democratic nomination for the District 19 State Senate seat.

Gutierrez closed with 53 percent of the vote just short of midnight. 

Elizabeth “Liz” Campos won the House District 119 seat that Gutierrez is vacating with 56 percent of the votes, defeating Jenn Ramos on Tuesday.

Gutierrez will face off against Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) on the November ballot in the hopes of winning the seat back for the Democrats. Flores became the first Hispanic Republican elected to the state Senate after gaining the seat in a 2018 special election. The seat was previously occupied by Carlos Uresti, who is serving a federal prison sentence for wire fraud and money laundering.

Senate District 19 is made up of all or part of 17 counties, including the West and Southwest parts of Bexar County, part of Atascosa, all of Medina, and much of Southwest Texas.

Gutierrez said he felt good about the results Tuesday.

“I feel confident and we’re happy with the outcome,” Gutierrez said. “We worked hard for two-and-a-half years toward this.”

He added he wants to do big things in the District 19 seat, and that he’s “moving forward” and focusing on the campaign against Flores.

“I have 12 years experience in the House of Representatives and I’m used to getting big things done,” he said. “[Flores] doesn’t have that – his [short] time in the Texas Senate has amounted to nothing other than being Dan Patrick’s lap dog.”

The fight between Gutierrez and Rodriguez garnered statewide media attention for its antagonistic nature; earlier this year a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission was filed against Rodriguez, an attorney. It was dismissed last month, her campaign announced in an official statement released on June 25. 

The ethics complaint accused Rodriguez of inconsistencies in her campaign finance reporting. She called the claim “fraudulent,” saying it was an “obviously coordinated, politically motivated attack.”

Earlier this year, Rodriguez also drew criticism after media reports about her father, former Congressman and current Justice of the Peace Ciro Rodriguez, campaigning for her and continuing to do so even after being told to stop. State law prohibits sitting judges from endorsing political candidates.

In an interview with The Big Bend Sentinel earlier this month, Rodriguez accused the Gutierrez campaign of dirty politics, including distributing a fake newspaper that defamed her and her family to voters in the district. The article was shared on her campaign page.

Last month Gutierrez told the Rivard Report he hopes “voters see through empty, baseless claims of innocence.”

“The fact is that the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct is still investigating her father for his illegal assistance to her campaign, and the Texas Attorney General is still investigating her uncle for illegally steering the exact same amount of taxpayer money to her father that he then gave to her campaign,” Gutierrez said. 

Gutierrez said he planned to file legislation called the “PACT ACT” – the Political Anti Corruption Transparency Act – to “counter the institutional corruption found in family politics.”

Tuesday night, Gutierrez said if he’s elected in November, he wants to focus on healthcare, legalizing cannabis, and healing the state’s post-coronavirus economy.

“We can do more, and can do better,” he said.

Rodriguez declined to comment Tuesday.

This year’s election marked Gutierrez’s second run at the state Senate seat. Gutierrez has served five terms in the state Legislature. 

District 119 is a historically Democratic district that encompasses parts of Universal City, Schertz, Live Oak, Converse, and a large portion of East and Southeast San Antonio. 

Campos, a legal assistant, received 46 percent of the vote in March, while Ramos, a former city councilwoman for District 3, secured 43 percent. Ramos declined to comment Tuesday.

Campos told the Rivard Report Tuesday night that she wants to serve the community she has lived in and worked in for her entire life. Campos said she didn’t run for office wanting to be a career politician, but because she wants to better serve her neighbors.

“It’s amazing – we’ve been working really hard for a long time, and I had an amazing team,” Campos said. “It’s been fun – we met some great people on the campaign.”

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.