Former San Antonio council member Ray Lopez defeated San Antonio construction businessman Fred Rangel, 58%-42%, to win the unexpired term of former Rep. Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio), who resigned in January to accept an appointment to the Bexar Co. Commissioners Court. A little more than 9K votes were cast, an increase of around 3K over the February 12 special election. Turnout for the runoff was 9% of registered voters.
Lopez jumped out to a 57%-43% lead in early voting, and he carried Election Day, 61%-39%. Lopez received more than four and a half times as many votes as in the special election, when he squeaked past Coda Rayo-Garza into the second runoff spot by 28 votes. Lopez received 19% of the vote, just over half the vote received by Rangel (38%). The Republican increased his vote total by nearly 1.5K votes, but it was not enough to overcome Lopez’s surge.
Lopez posed the second largest “comeback” in a legislative special election since 1996. Only Randy Weber has overcome a bigger special election deficit. In 1997, he defeated Mike O’Day despite finishing almost 20 points behind him in round one.
Lopez’s win ends an embarrassing streak of special election losses for Bexar Co. Democratic candidates in low-turnout legislative special elections. In January 2016, Republican John Lujan upset Democrat Tomas Uresti to win the vacant HD118, only to lose it in the general election. In May of that same year, Democrat Lou Miller lost to independent Laura Thompson in one of the lowest-turnout elections in history in vacant HD120. A Democrat would reclaim the seat in the general election. Neither Lujan nor Thompson ever cast a legislative vote.
Recent Bexar Co. Special Election Turnout
9.4% – HD123 runoff (February 2015)
9.0% – HD125 runoff (March 2019)
8.1% – HD123 special (January 2015)
7.4% – HD118 special (November 2015)
7.2% – SD19 runoff (September 2018) – Bexar Co. only
6.1% – HD125 special (February 2019)
6.0% – SD26 runoff (February 2015)
4.8% – SD26 special (January 2015)
4.2% – SD19 special (July 2018) – Bexar Co. only
4.1% – HD118 runoff (January 2016)
2.8% – HD124 runoff (April 2015)
2.3% – HD124 special (March 2015)
2.2% – HD120 special (May 2016)
1.3% – HD120 runoff (August 2016)
Democrats arguably lost the 2015 runoff for SD26, when the opponent was also a Democrat. Jose Menendez defeated Trey Martinez Fischer with the help of Republican voters. That seat was opened because former Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) resigned to run unsuccessfully for mayor. She lost that runoff to Ivy Taylor, who received significant support from Republican voters.
The biggest blow to Democrats was the SD19 special runoff election. Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego in part because of Gallego’s inability to win Bexar Co. by more than 8 points. That unexpired Senate term, triggered by former Sen. Carlos Uresti’s (D-San Antonio) resignation, runs until 2020, and Flores is currently serving in the Senate.
That loss may have finally motivated Bexar Co. Democrats to turn out for this runoff election. Turnout, measured as the percent of registered voters, was the second highest for a legislative special or special runoff election in Bexar Co. since this series of special elections began in 2015.
When Lopez is sworn in, the House will have its full complement of 150 members.
©2019 Texas Election Source