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Democrat Ray Lopez Wins HD 125 With 58 Percent Of Vote

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Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio

Former San Antonio City Councilman Ray Lopez secured a seat in the state legislature after winning a special election to represent northwest San Antonio in the Texas House.

This is Lopez’s third political office after spending eight years on the San Antonio City Council and almost a decade as a trustee for the Northside Independent School District.

Lopez defeated Republican opponent Fred Rangel by a 1,500-vote margin Tuesday night. The district saw a nine percent turnout of registered voters.

During his victory speech Lopez said there were certain members of the legislature who prioritized the wrong issues.

“There are two state representatives on the other side that are trying to pass a $2.5 billion bill to fund the wall,” Lopez said. “Why? When we have a shortage of teachers, when we have a shortage of counselors, when we have a shortage of programs, we don’t have a full day pre-k, we have so many things that are an emergency.”

The 86th legislative session is nearly half over, and the deadline to introduce new bills expired on March 8. Still, Lopez, 69, said there are many bills he considered essential and was ready to vote on.

“We have transportation bills, we have education bills, we have bills that are going to take care of veterans and veterans issues — there are plenty of bills out there — the way I put it — that I can put my thumbprint on,” Lopez said.

He added that the biggest challenge will be education spending with the goal of money going towards public schooling.

“Now that this compressed special election is over, we can move on to bigger and better things, and really what this is all about is trying to go up to Austin and making difference to our community,” Lopez said.

Before election night was over and votes were still being tabulated, Rangel, 64, said both sides ran a clean campaign and respected each other.

“I think that we acted like gentlemen, because it wasn’t about him or it wasn’t about me. It was about the issues that affected House District 125, and I think that the public saw that for the first time,” Rangel said.

Julian Castro, a Democratic presidential candidate and former San Antonio mayor, was among the supporters cheering the Lopez victory.

Both Castro and Lopez served on the San Antonio City Council at the same time. Castro said Lopez is a bridge builder and will be able to hit the ground running.

“He’s somebody that tries to bring people together even when they disagree," Castro said. "He also has deep knowledge of a whole host of issues including education and transportation because he served on the Northside Independent School District board. he served on the Metropolitan planning organization. So he understands issues that the legislature deals with all the time.”

The win was one Democrats were determined to secure after a stinging loss in a special election for the Texas Senate last September. Republican Pete Flores won the special election for Senate District 19 after former State Senator Carlos Uresti, a Democrat, resigned following multiple federal convictions that summer.

Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Monica Alcantara said that election was a wakeup call.

“We absolutely all came together. We united as one to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get out there, we’ve have to vote, and ensure we hold on to this seat,’” she said.

The Lopez victory keeps the seat blue. He joins a 150-seat Texas House, divided among 83 Republicans and 66 fellow Democrats.

Texas House District 125 covers northwest San Antonio and Leon Valley. The special election was triggered after its former representative Justin Rodriguez stepped down to become a Bexar County commissioner. Rodriguez filled the seat left by Commissioner Paul Elizondo, who died in December.

Gov. Greg Abbott called a special election for Feb. 12, which saw five candidates — four Democrats and one Republican. Rangel and Lopez received the most votes but since neither one crossed 50-percent mark, a runoff was triggered and set for Tuesday. About six percent of voters in the district participated in the election last month.

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