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HD 125 Runoff Candidates Discuss Legislative Bills Before Early Voting

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Democrat Ray Lopez (left) and Republican Fred Rangel attend a public forum held by the League of Women Voters

The two candidates who want to represent Northwest San Antonio met for a public forum in Leon Valley Tuesday night.

Democrat Ray Lopez and Republican Fred Rangel will face each other in a runoff for Texas House District 125 in less than two weeks. The two discussed a number of issues currently debated in this year's legislative session. The forum’s issues included education, immigration, Medicaid, paid sick leave and Texas’ recent attempt to identify alleged non-citizens on the voter rolls.

The League of Women Voters hosted Lopez and Rangel before a crowd of about 60 people. It was a question-and-answer format, with no discussion or reaction to each other’s comments.

Republican Fred Rangel is 64. He’s run for city council twice unsuccessfully. He has a degree in architecture and is a businessman who designs commercial buildings. He said voters should know his two priorities are property tax reform and education reform.

“The issues that I represent are not necessarily partisan,” he said. “School finance reform has to do with how do you revise a school system that is broken with the finances and allow parents to do better and stronger things for their kids.”

Ray Lopez is 69. He served on the San Antonio City Council from 2009 until 2017 and on the school board of the Northside Independent School District for most of the 1990s. He served in the Army Reserves for 14 years and is a former executive for AT&T.

He agreed there needs to be education funding reform.

“The Republicans and Democrats both agree that we need to put money into education. It’s where specifically do we put it. The Republicans would like to put it in charter schools or things of that nature. It needs to go to public school. We don’t even have the public school funding right.”

The first question focused on the fetal heartbeat bill – House Bill 1500 -- which would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected – about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Lopez said he would not support the bill because he believes it’s a woman’s right to choose. He says he also believes the father should have a say in decisions.

“I think it is a choice that needs to be made by both of the individuals that are involved but I do believe at the end of the day I would fall on the side of allowing a woman to make that decision, and I believe that really takes that decision away from her,” Lopez said.

Lopez added that he supports the current law restricting abortion after 20 weeks.

Rangel expressed support for tighter restrictions on abortion.

“I believe that in every case, regardless of the situation and timing of partial term or full term, in no way would I ever support an abortion bill that would kill another embryo or child,” Rangel said.

Last year, the City of San Antonio passed a petition-driven ordinance mandating businesses offer paid sick leave. A few weeks ago, Governor Greg Abbott expressed support for House bill 222, which would ban cities from enacting similar ordinances.

Rangel said he would vote in favor of legislative intervention because he believes business owners in San Antonio did not have enough time to present their thoughts on it.

“So obviously it’s premature, like many policies that are rushed in and not solved before having to be entertained,” he added.

Lopez was not on the city council when sick leave passed last year but signed the petition in favor of it. He’s against the state bill because he says it’s a local control issue.

“If a municipality that that’s what they want to do, if you want to argue that it’s a competitive disadvantage or whatever, it is an issue of local control, and I believe that that’s exactly the way it should be,” Lopez said.

When asked about a bill about Medicaid expansion, Rangel said he would not support anything until the funding was clear.

“I would first like to see where the funds are to pay for it. You never move into a direction without knowing how you’re going to pay for it,” he said.

Lopez says he would support expansion and believed the state has the money to do it.

“There are areas where the state has an opportunity to be able to parcel out some dollars and be able to support Medicaid,” Lopez said.

When asked if teachers in Texas should be armed while at school, Lopez said that would not be the answer to curbing school violence.

“That to me is one of the most egregious propositions that we could make for a teacher. They have their hands full dealing with children,” he said.

Rangel believed it should be the teacher’s right to carry a gun.

“It harbors on changing the very basic law of the Second Amendment, giving us the right to bear arms. If the teacher so desires to do this and they wanted to apply within the law to have the right do so, they should have the privilege,” Rangel added.

This election has a quick turnaround. Early voting starts on Monday, March 4, and the election is eight days after that on March 12. Initial turnout for the special election was low. There are about 100,000 registered voters in HD 125. Only about six percent of the district cast a ballot.

Lopez and Rangel were the two candidates who received the most votes during the initial special election on Feb. 12 in a field of five candidates. Rangel was the lone Republican in the race, receiving 38 percent of the total vote. Lopez narrowly beat Coda Rayo-Garza by 28 votes after mail-in ballots were counted the next day.

The partisan results in the run-off seemed to be the result of Republicans gathering support behind the lone candidate with Democrats split between four other candidates. Overall, Democrats combined received 62 percent of the vote in the Feb. 12 election.

The district, which serves Northwest San Antonio and the suburb of Leon Valley, has been traditionally represented by a Democrat. Former State Rep. Justin Rodriguez vacated the seat in January to become commissioner for Bexar County’s Precinct 2.

Whoever wins the runoff will likely take office the following week – about halfway into the ongoing legislative session. They’ll also go into office after the deadline for filing new bills. The victor will also take over the appointments to Juvenile Justice and Defense and Veterans Affairs committees.

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

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