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Election Day arrives in House District 145 special election

January 29, 2019

Voters in Texas’ 145th House District could choose a new state representative Tuesday for the first time since 2008, though the special election will head to a runoff if nobody emerges from Election Day with 50 percent plus one vote.

The Harris County Clerk’s office is operating 27 polling locations across the district from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters can find the location that corresponds with their precinct on the clerk’s website, harrisvotes.com, or by calling the clerk’s office at 713-755-6965.

The district runs from the Heights through downtown, along Interstate 45, to parts of Pasadena and South Houston.

Eight candidates — six Democrats, a Republican and a libertarian — are seeking the open House seat, which was last occupied by state Sen. Carol Alvarado. The Houston Democrat vacated her position after she won a December special election to the Senate.

Some of the candidates had anticipated Alvarado’s win and eyed the seat for months, though they have had little time to campaign since Gov. Greg Abbott set the special election Dec. 21. In the five weeks since, the race has remained subdued, with low turnout and little to no visible sparring between the candidates.

A few have emerged as apparent frontrunners, though. City planning commissioner and funeral home CEO Christina Morales on Friday drew the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, the Houston Democrat replaced by Alvarado in the Texas Senate. Garcia left her Senate seat after she was elected to Congress in November.

Morales, a Democrat, also had raised more than $56,000 through Jan. 19, more money than any other candidate. Democrat Melissa Noriega, a former Houston City Council member, had raised about $25,000 and loaned her campaign another $31,750.

While Morales has touted her deep ties to the community and background as a small business owner, Noriega has emphasized her experience, which includes filling the House District 145 seat during the 2005 legislative session, and two special sessions, while her then-husband Rick Noriega was deployed to Afghanistan.

Noriega has received endorsements from former Houston mayor Annise Parker and state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston.

Meanwhile, Republican Martha Fierro is hoping to score an upset in the blue-leaning district after narrowly missing out on a runoff against Alvarado in the December election for Garcia’s seat. Alvarado barely secured enough votes to win outright, while Fierro finished third, just out of second place.

The other Democratic candidates are Elias De La Garza, Oscar Del Toro, Ruben Gonsalez and Alfred Moreno. Libertarian Clayton Hunt is also running.

So far, voters have been slow to head to the polls, with the county clerk’s office recording just 1,443 ballots during 11 days of early voting and another 83 votes coming by mail. Turnout increased sharply on Thursday and Friday, though, when a combined 663 people cast ballots on the last two days of early voting.

jasper.scherer@chron.com

twitter.com/jaspscherer

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