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GOP flips Texas House District 118 in irregular runoff race

John Lujan at his victory party on November 2nd, 2021.
Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
John Lujan at his victory party on November 2nd, 2021.

Republican John Lujan narrowly defeated Democrat Frank Ramirez in a special runoff Tuesday for Texas House District 118.

The runoff race, set by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, coincided with the state constitutional amendments and local bond elections.

Residents in the district — which includes south and east Bexar County — had to vote twice in order to cast a ballot in the runoff and the general election. That’s because Abbott did not announce the runoff date until the Monday before early voting, and it was too late to be included on the same ballot.

Related: Two separate elections on Nov. 2 are requiring some San Antonio voters to visit the polls twice

Lujan acknowledged the difficulties saying the lack of being able to vote at any polling site in Bexar County like voters could in the constitutional amendment election made the election confusing.

“It was challenging and I'm not going to be a crybaby about it — you know — I'm upset about it. I know my competitor, he's upset about it,” Lujan said. “It was two spots to vote in the whole district for early voting in the South Side, one in the North Side. I think we lost a lot of votes and he's going to claim he lost a lot of votes just by the confusion.”

Lujan, a retired firefighter who now owns a private business and also briefly represented the district in 2016 after winning a special runoff election, said he plans to tackle education and foster care issues while in office.

“Foster children — kids in foster care — the way that's been handled, that is something very passionate to me,” Lujan said. “I have three adoptive children. I've been through the process and there's a lot of little things that we can do to put a framework in place to make this advantageous for the kids, as well as making sure that we make it easier for the families to adopt children.”

Unless another special session is called by Abbott, Lujan will not get the chance to file legislation until after the next general election in 2022 and the reconvening of the legislature in 2023.

Frank Ramirez at his election night party on November 2nd, 2021.
Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
Frank Ramirez at his election night party on November 2nd, 2021.

Ramirez previously served as zoning and planning director for the City of San Antonio's District 7 and as a legislative director and chief of staff for HD 118 under now-former State Rep. Tomas Uresti. Uresti had defeated Lujan in the 2016 Midterm Election.

In his concession speech, Ramirez said he plans to run in the 2022 primaries and challenge Lujan again in the next November election.

“If we can come this far with what we had this time around, I can promise you that in a primary and a general election — where the numbers favor us extraordinarily — we will do it. We will,” said Ramierz. "So this isn't a night of sorrow. It's not something that we feel bad about. This is a culmination of all the work that we've done the past two months — to come as close as we did, where all odds were against us.”

Abbott took to twitter following Lujan’s win.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said he believes Abbott and the Republican Party unfairly stacked the deck in this race.

“Republicans used insider information about the election date to mobilize voters a week before that knowledge was public — giving the GOP an entire week’s head start,” Hinojosa said. “And election officials at both the state and county level made the process as confusing as possible for voters. Despite all of that, tonight, Texas Democrats are within 286 votes of shutting out Republicans and sending another strong Democrat to the Texas House.”

Hinojosa made note of Lujan’s brief tenure as representative in 2016 before being unseated in the general election that year — something Democrats hope to replicate next year.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules