In less than 3 weeks, voters living in Senate District 19 will choose a new state senator to follow Carlos Uresti, who resigned following his 11 count federal conviction on charges, ranging from fraud to money laundering.
The short timeline has the seven candidates on the ballot racing to get their messages out to those voters.
Several politicians watching Uresti's legal troubles sensed an opportunity emerge on the political landscape.
Some candidates, like San Antonio State House Rep. Roland Gutierrez, began actively campaigning for Uresti’s seat even before the governor announced a special election — and even before Uresti resigned his Senate seat.
“We knew most likely it was going to be earlier than November, so we’ve been campaigning for the last 18 months. Everything that has happened has been expected,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez, during the 2017 session, led the charge against annexation legislation that he and others believed would lead to the closure of some of San Antonio’s military bases.
Gutierrez believes voters living in Senate District 19, which stretches from South San Antonio through parts of West Texas, would welcome the idea of electing someone new to represent them in the Texas Senate.
“It bothers me that these people think they own the Southside of San Antonio,” he said. “Listen, these seats don’t belong to anyone but the people and so the people are going to decide what is best for the community and it’s my hope that that last name is eradicated from their vocabulary.”
But Gutierrez is just one of several candidates in the race willing to criticize Uresti in order to gain favor with the district’s electorate.
Former U.S. Congressman Pete Gallego said Uresti hasn’t kept in touch with the people he represents.
“Sen. Uresti, who resigned last week, had had some challenges that had really kept him from fulfilling his commitment to the people that he serves. He’s been somewhat of an absentee senator in the sense that he has not been around because of some of issues he’s had to deal with on a personal level,” Gallego said.
Criticizing Uresti’s leadership is a key part of most of these candidates’ campaign messages. But that isn’t the case for one candidate: Uresti's older brother Tomas.
In his campaign announcement, Tomas Uresti wrote, "After receiving such positive encouragement and taking time to pray and reflect with my family, I am confident I can work with the hard working communities across Senate District 19 to effectively represent the district's needs.”
Poteet attorney Charlie Urbina Jones is also running as a Democrat in the race.
A Democrat has held this Senate district seat since 2006 but several Republicans think they have a chance, including Pete Flores, a former game warden for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He criticized Tomas Uresti just for announcing his candidacy.
“It’s just the epitome of trying to retain power and control, so he couldn’t hold on to his House seat and now he thinks he can be senator just because his name is Uresti,” Flores said.
Flores ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Uresti during 2016’s general election.
Former Harlandale Independent School District school president Jesse “Jay” Alaniz and Carlos Antonio Raymond are two Republicans that have also added their names to the race.
Early voting in the Senate District 19’s special election begins July 16.