Polls close at 7 p.m. in Senate District 19 special election

September 18, 2018

Voters are back at the polls today to choose between Republican Pete Flores, a retired game warden, or Democrat Pete Gallego, a former lawmaker, in the special election runoff to replace former state Sen. Carlos Uresti.

Flores and Gallego emerged from an 11-candidate field in first- and second-place, respectively, in July’s special election, resulting in today’s runoff.

Polls are open until 7 p.m. in Senate District 19, which encompasses all or parts of 17 counties, including a portion of San Antonio, large swaths of West Texas and 400 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

More than 25,000 Texans voted in the early voting period and by mail before Tuesday. Some county election officials said they’ve seen higher turnout in the runoff than the special election a few months ago.

Political observers say the race will come down to who can excite their voters in a late, off-cycle election.

“This race is all about enthusiasm,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. “Who can turn out their bases?”

The race will have important consequences for next year’s legislative session. Republicans hold a one-seat margin for their three-fifths Senate supermajority, which allows them to bring bills to the floor without Democratic support.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston and author of “Inside Texas Politics,” said Flores’ candidacy energized state GOP leaders who saw the district as a potential steal.

“The Republicans’ margin is in danger because you may have a couple of the Senate districts that could flip (in November),” he said. “If this district could flip to the Republicans, the Democrats would have an even higher hurdle to even be relevant in the state Senate.”

In Medina County, a line started to form at the polling location in Castroville around 4:30 p.m.

Hilda Mendoza, the election judge there, said turnout was higher than expected, which she said was likely because the election pitted a Republican against a Democrat.

“It was an enormous ... increase” from the special election across Devine, Hondo and Castroville, Mendoza said.

Voters in the heavily-Republican district said they were confident Flores would win.

“We gotta get this back to how it used to be. It’s been blue for so long,” said Liz Devries of the district. “It’d be nice to see it go red.”

Others said they did not want to elect Gallego, who has previously represented the county as a state and U.S representative.

“We’ve had Pete Gallego and I wasn’t happy with what he did before,” Marie Rowe said.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more updates.

Dylan McGuinness covers county government and local politics for the Express News. Reach him at dylan.mcguinness@express-news.net and follow him on Twitter @DylMcGuinness.

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