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Republican Tops Field In Senate District 19 Special Election

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio

Updated Aug. 2 11:25 a.m.

The results from last night's special election for Senate District 19 are in, and a district that has been a Democratic stronghold for 35 years might be on the verge of a Republican takeover.

Republican Pete Flores said his leading Democratic opponents — Roland Gutierrez and Pete Gallego — spent 10 times more on their campaigns than he did on his during the election's final weeks. And yet, when the votes were counted, the former game warden finished first with 34 percent of the vote. He and Gallego will meet again in a runoff election in September

Mark Jones, political science professor at Rice University, said negative campaigning between Gutierrez and Gallego, and the fact that four Democrats split the Democratic vote, along with last-minute support from statewide Republican politicians, all pushed Flores to the head of the pack.

Jones also pointed to a problem specific to Bexar County: Flores is not from Bexar County and neither is Gallego.

“Pete Flores got in based on the last minute help he received from Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick, but I think it was more of an indictment against the Bexar County Democratic Party,” Jones said. “They’re pretty much useless when comes to endorsements and helping their candidates getting elected, and — as a result of their failure — that Senate seat will not be represented by someone from Bexar County.”

Jones said a Flores win in the runoff election will help statewide elected leaders like Lt. Gov. Patrick hold on to the current three-fifths Republican supermajority in the Texas Senate.

Despite the Republican victory, Jason Stanford, a former Democratic consultant for Gallego, is optimistic. He's impressed by the total number of Democrats voting in a special election in the middle of the summer.

“The real story is that Democratic performance in that district increased by 8 percent over election day voting in 2016. That is shocking, and it is evidence that the Democratic wave is hitting Texas,” Stanford said.

Stanford said overall there were more Democratic votes cast but they were split between four candidates, diminishing their benefits.

Abbott's office has not yet selected the day for the September runoff election.

Ryan Poppe can be reached at rpoppe@tpr.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe1

CORRECTION:Headline was updated to better reflect the result of the election.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.