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Peña Rodriguez Faces Texas State Rep. Gutierrez In District 19 Democratic Runoff

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Roland Gutierrez (L) and Xochil Peña Rodriguez (R)"

Attorney Xochil Peña Rodriguez will go up against State Rep. Roland Gutierrez in the July 14 Democratic primary runoff election for Texas' Senate District 19. The victor will face Republican incumbent Sen. Pete Flores in the November general election.

SD 19 covers a large swath of Texas, stretching across 17 counties including parts of Bexar and Atascosa, and south along the U.S.-Mexico border. The district was reliably blue until Flores' special election upset after Sen. Carlos Uresti resigned the office amid felony corruption charges.

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Neither Peña Rodriguez (43%) or Gutierrez (37%) surpassed the 50% threshold to secure the district's Democratic nomination on Super Tuesday

Gutierrez is a six-term state representative, immigration lawyer and former San Antonio City Council member. In the Texas House, he is currently a member of the Energy Resources and Pensions, Investments & Financial Services committees. Gutierrez made an unsuccessful bid for the SD 19 seat in 2018.

First-time candidate Peña Rodriguez is a lawyer and the daughter of former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez. She previously served as associate counsel for the University of Texas at San Antonio and assistant city attorney for the City of San Antonio. She currently serves on the San Antonio/Bexar County Complete Count Committee for the 2020 Census.

With the upcoming election occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic, both candidates are supportive of letting Texans vote by mail instead of in person. Texas has some of the country’s most restrictive laws when it comes to eligibility for mail-in voting.

“We're going to get there,” Gutierrez said during Thursday’s candidate forum. “We're going to keep fighting the good fight so that everybody has access to the franchise of voting.”

Peña Rodriguez said she’s disappointed in the state’s refusal to allow all Texans the option to vote by mail and that this runoff would have been a great time to test it before November.

Later in the forum, Peña Rodriguez stressed her belief that everyone should have equal access to opportunities regardless of their background, and she wants to ensure no one is left behind.

“I think in this country that that has been harder to get to, whether it be for education, for access to health care,” she said. “Even the right to vote is under threat here...we need Democrats who will stand up; who understand that.”

Gutierrez said those are the kinds of things he has been fighting for throughout his career and would continue doing if elected to the Texas Senate. 

“We need to make sure that we're sending people that have a clear record of not just results, but a clear record of honesty...transparency...integrity,” Gutierrez said. “I believe that the constituents that have voted me in office for the last 15 years know that to be true.”

Early voting in Bexar County is June 29 through July 10. Election Day is July 14. More information here.

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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, June 18.

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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.