Buoyed by a strong Election Day surge, Republican Pete Flores vaulted two high-profile Democrats into first place in the SD19 special election.
He’ll face former Rep. and U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), whose prior representation of the district’s far flung counties proved enough to overcome Rep. Roland Gutierrez’s (D-San Antonio) advantages in Bexar Co. for the second runoff spot. With all precincts reported, Flores received 34% of the vote, Gallego received 29% and Gutierrez received 24%.
No one else in the eight-person field received more than 3%. Rep. Tomás Uresti (D-San Antonio), who lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary, finished fifth behind Republican Carlos Antonio Raymond and just 15 votes ahead of Democrat Charlie Urbina Jones. Rounding out the field were Republican John Alaniz (2%) and Libertarian Tony Valdivia (1%).
The winner of the runoff election, the date of which has not been set, will serve the remaining two-plus years of former Sen. Carlos Uresti’s (D-San Antonio) term.
A combination of low turnout, Democratic infighting and a strong, late push from Republican leaders such as Gov. Greg Abbott (R), Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R) were enough to secure the retired game warden and unsuccessful 2016 nominee a first-place finish and spot in the runoff. The effect of Republicans’ rallying around Flores in the campaign’s closing days was clearly evident in the Election Day numbers. Flores received 48% of the Election Day vote, which was more than Gallego (23%) and Gutierrez (20%) combined. Flores received 27% of the early vote, placing him third behind Gallego (33%) and, narrowly, Gutierrez (27%).
Just over 26K votes were cast, the third lowest vote total since at least 1997 for a special election for a Senate seat. This year’s election finishes ahead of the 2015 special election for SD26, a district located entirely within Bexar Co., that drew just 19K voters despite the presence of two prominent local state legislators.
Indeed, dismal turnout in Bexar Co. doomed Gutierrez. We estimate that just 4.4% of Bexar Co. registered voters in the district turned out, which was the second lowest percentage turnout of the district’s 17 counties. Despite being home to 61% of the district’s registered voters and 62% of the votes cast in the 2016 general election, less than half of this special election’s votes were cast there. Gutierrez received about a 1K-vote plurality in his home county but received just 16% of the vote outside Bexar Co., far behind Flores (43%) and Gallego (34%).
Across the district, we estimate that 5.5% of registered voters participated in the emergency special election. Estimated turnout was highest in Brewster (21.4%), Real (11.5%), Kinney (10.9%) and Terrell (10.9%) Cos.
Flores and Gallego each finished first in eight counties. Flores won five counties outright: Edwards (69%), Medina (69%), Real (69%), his home Atascosa (64%) and Kinney (55%). Gallego received a majority vote in his home Brewster (63%) and Zavala (54%) Cos. and just missed a majority in Reeves (49%) and Val Verde (46%) Cos. Head-to-head, Flores won nine counties (including Bexar and Medina Cos., the district’s two largest vote totals) and Gallego won eight.
Despite not having a candidate finish in first place, Democrats received 59% of the vote to the Republican candidates’ 40%, a split similar to the 2016 general election (Uresti 56%, Flores 40%). Flores finished first overall because he received 87% of the votes cast for Republican candidates, enabling him to overcome the top Democrats. Gallego finished just short of a majority of votes cast for Democratic candidates. Gutierrez received 41% of the votes cast for Democrats, and the other two combined for 10%. That imbalance in party unity could come into play in the runoff.
In the end, Bexar Co.’s turnout not only cost Gutierrez a shot at a promotion, but also cost the county a Senate seat.
©2018 Texas Election Source LLC