State Rep. Roland Gutierrez is running for Texas Senate District 19, a Democratic-leaning San Antonio district that overlaps with his own.
The only problem: That seat is still held by State Sen. Carlos Uresti, who has resisted calls to resign from Democrats and Republicans alike since he was convicted weeks ago of 11 felonies. And there isn’t an election set for the seat until 2020.
Gutierrez’s Saturday afternoon announcement adds to the mounting pressure that Uresti, a two-decade veteran of the Texas Legislature, faces to give up his seat. Hours after the verdict was handed down Feb. 22, the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus and other colleagues on the left, Gutierrez among them, called on Uresti to resign.
In the weeks since, he has not responded to those calls, and in the meantime both his legal and legislative careers have begun to unravel. Last week, his wife of six years filed for divorce. Uresti can keep his seat as his case winds its way through the appeals process. Once his felony conviction is final, though, he’ll be ineligible to serve in the Legislature.
Uresti faces a separate indictment on bribery and money-laundering charges in connection with his role as a consultant for a company providing healthcare services to prison inmates, with a trial is tentatively set for May.
Gutierrez told a crowd in San Antonio Saturday that he’s been traveling District 19 since early last year and has “become aware there’s a greater community in need” beyond his House district.
“I can’t stand by here in good conscience while they wait,” Gutierrez said, speaking in front of a large sign promising “New Energy. New Ideas.” “I’m officially declaring my candidacy for the 19th senatorial district.”
Gutierrez acknowledged there’s a lot “up in the air” about the future of the seat, but he said whether the next election arrives in “2020 or sooner, we are ready, willing, and able to be your next senator.”
It’s not yet clear who else might file to run in a special election, should there be one. But there’s another seat in the Texas Senate that current House Democrats are already eyeing. After State Sen. Sylvia Garcia won the Democratic primary for a reliably blue seat in U.S. Congress, two fellow Houston Democrats – State Reps. Ana Hernandez and Carol Alvarado – have already lined up to take her place.
Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.