Texas Senate District 19 Democratic candidate Xochil Pena-Rodriguez Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Two key Democratic primary races, in Texas Senate District 19 and House District 119, were headed to runoffs early Wednesday.

First-time candidate Xochil Peña Rodriguez outpolled State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) in the race to determine which Democrat will try to win back the sprawling Texas Senate District 19, which stretches from southern San Antonio to West Texas and the Texas-Mexico border. Neither earned the 50-percent-plus-one votes needed to avoid facing each other again in a May 26 runoff.

The winner will face off against first-term Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton), formerly a high-ranking Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden who in 2018 became the first Republican elected to the district in 139 years. Flores was running unopposed in the Republican primary.

Rodriguez, a San Antonio lawyer and daughter of former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) earned 44.1 percent of votes with almost all the vote counted early Wednesday. Gutierrez had 37.4 percent. Freddy Ramirez, a Bexar County felony prosecutor running for his first elected office, was third with 18.9 percent.

In an interview late Tuesday, the 37-year-old Rodriguez emphasized her experiences as a working mother who campaigned even while taking care of her young daughter. She talked about the small percentage of women serving in the Texas Legislature and how that translates to issues like Texas’ high maternal death rates compared to other states.

“We are not at all represented, and it shows,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think we are prioritizing the needs of our students, of our children, really investing in ourselves. That’s our most important resource, is our people.”

In a statement, Gutierrez acknowledged that the race is likely headed to a runoff and said he’s “glad we are continuing this campaign.”

“I’m ready to put in the hard work and plead my case why I should be the next state senator for District 19,” he continued.

Texas House District 119

With Gutierrez in the running for Texas Senate, three Democrats were also vying for his seat in Texas House District 119. The district covers large swaths of eastern Bexar County and San Antonio’s South Side.

Preliminary results put Elizabeth “Liz” Campos, a plumbing business owner and former chief of staff to imprisoned former State Sen. Carlos Uresti, into a runoff with former San Antonio City Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos. Campos got 46.1 percent of the vote to Ramos’ 43.7 percent. Republican George B. Garza ran unopposed in that party’s primary.

Speaking from a campaign watch party at a VFW post on the South Side, Campos, 50, said her decades living and working her whole life in the economically disadvantaged district, coupled with her experience in Austin, best qualify her for the role.

“I’ve kind of done it all, but more than anything, I’m very passionate about people,” Campos said. “It’s very rewarding to me when I can help them, and I think that elected officials need to be held accountable.”

Ramos described property taxes and education as some of biggest issues for the district.

“In this district, we’re working families,” Ramos said during an interview at a campaign watch party at El Torero, a bar owned by her family on South Presa Street.

Texas House District 116

Incumbent State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) cruised to a commanding victory over challenger Evan Bohl, a landscaping business owner, drawing 81 percent of the vote.

Fischer chairs the Texas House Committee on Business and Industry and held the seat from 2001 to 2017 before making a Texas Senate bid. He was reelected to his former role in 2018.

On the Republican side, court reform advocate Robert Litoff edged out former Bexar County employee and business owner Fernando Padron, earning 50.1 percent of the vote.

Texas House District 121

Three Democrats were running for the chance to unseat State Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio), who doesn’t have a primary opponent in his first reelection bid for the seat formerly held by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.

Celina Montoya, a former radio reporter and founder of an educational nonprofit, emerged from a three-candidate field to grab 68.7 percent of votes cast. Becca Moyer DeFelice, an anti-gun violence activist, polled second with 22.8 percent of votes, followed by rental property owner Jack Guerra with 8.5 percent.

House District 120

Republican Ronald Payne, a retired Army non-commissioned officer, pulled ahead early and stayed there, taking 71.5 percent of the vote against Andrew Fernandez Vicencio. Payne will challenge incumbent State Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio), who is running for her third term.

Other State House Races

Three Texas House districts in Bexar County have candidates of both parties running unopposed.

In House District 117, three-term Democratic State Rep. Phillip Cortez was set to run in November against Republican Carlos Antonio Raymond.

Incumbent State Rep. Leo Pacheco (D-San Antonio) ran unopposed in the primary for his second term representing House District 118. His challenger is set to be Republican Adam Salyer.

In House District 122, Democrat Claire Barnett was unopposed in the race against State Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), a five-term incumbent and chair of the House Natural Resources Committee.

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Brendan Gibbons

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