Candidates for Dist. 118 Agree On Issues But Differ On Tactics | Texas Public Radio

Candidates for Dist. 118 Agree On Issues But Differ On Tactics

Feb 16, 2016


Early voting begins today for Texas’ Super Tuesday primary. In the presidential races voters will be choosing delegates to the Republican and Democratic conventions. They’ll also be choosing their parties’ nominees in local, state and congressional races.


In south San Antonio, members of two long-time political families are again facing off for the Democratic nomination in Texas House District 118.  They’re hoping their names will matter.


Political rivals Tomas Uresti and Gabe Farias have several things in common. They campaign on some similar issues: improving public education and making healthcare more available for women and children. Both come from political families and hope their family names will help get them to Austin next year. And, like many politicians, trying to win over voters, they block walk.



Joe Farias, former state representative for District 118, block walks with his son, Gabe Farias, who is running for the same seat.
Credit Louisa Jonas


Farias is out on a warm evening on Shrine Avenue, in south San Antonio. It’s the street he grew up on where his parents and grandparents still have homes. His father, Joe Farias, held the legislative seat the younger Farias hopes to win. The elder Farias waits in the car, wearing a Gabe Farias shirt. 


Farias stands waiting on a doorstep, and a woman unlocks the door.


“Hola Ms. San Miguel,” he says. “I’m Gabe Farias. I’m running for state representative. How are you doing?”


“Just fine,” Ms. San Miguel says.


“I just want to let you know I’m on the ballet in March.”


“Yes, on March.”


“And following in the footsteps of my father, Joe Farias.”


Farias is the president of the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. He’s also the play-by-play voice for the University of the Incarnate Word football team.


Tomas Uresti runs the law office of his brother, state Sen. Carlos Uresti. He’s been a trustee on the Harlendale School Board for 12 years. For Uresti, block walking is also a family affair. He heads out on a recent sunny afternoon on Clovis Place with his 17-year-old granddaughter, Beatriz. She stands by him at every door, wearing his campaign shirt.


Tomas Uresti's granddaughter, Beatriz, assists him in his campaign office and accompanies him on block walks.
Credit Louisa Jonas


At one house, an older woman comes to the door.


Uresti tells the woman in Spanish the election is coming up, and that he and his brother Carlos are running for office, and that they’d love her support. He hands her a flyer with both of their pictures on it. Maybe he’s hoping his photo next to that of the long-serving state senator will give him a better chance at gaining a seat himself.


They joke and begin to laugh. Uresti translates what they say into English.


“She’s not going to tell me which is the uglier one, me or Carlos,” he says.


District 118 is more than 70 percent Hispanic, with 20 percent of the population living in poverty. Farias and Uresti say the district is majority democrat and both candidates are banking on a democrat being elected. That, in spite of the fact that Republican John Lujan is currently representing the district following a special election.


Uresti and Farias may be rivals, but they more or less see eye to eye on several key party issues. Farias shares his priorities.



“Helping the poor, helping our senior citizens, helping our veterans, helping our public schools, making sure women and children have adequate healthcare and healthcare programs.”


Then it’s Uresti’s turn.


“We need to look at ensuring that women receive the best healthcare possible that’s available to them, to ensure that our senior citizens and our veterans receive every benefit that can possibly be made to them. Also, and of course, to protect our children, keeping them out of harm’s way, and another thing that’s of course very very big would be public education and tuition.”


Both dislike abortion, but say government shouldn’t have a say in what women can and can’t do.  


With so many similarities, what differentiates these two? One thing is how they’d go about improving public education. Farias says his top priority would be to fully fund schools.


“Until the state of Texas does an adequate job of funding public education, those schools, especially small schools, poor school districts, those students are going to struggle.”


Uresti points to the STEM program he helped create in the Harlendale School District. That’s Science Technology Engineering and Math. He says he would make STEM classes available in all Texas school districts. Uresti also says he would work to change the system so Texas students could graduate with a diploma and a two-year associate’s degree upon finishing high school.


Whether Farias follows Farias into office, or there’s another Uresti in Austin come January, depends on whether the Democratic winner of this contest can defeat the Republican in November. But both candidates are hoping it’s their family name that gets to be carried on.