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Early voting begins Monday for SD19 special election

September 10, 2018

Early voting begins today and continues through Friday in the special election runoff to replace former state Sen. Carlos Uresti.

Republican Pete Flores, a retired game warden, and Democrat Pete Gallego, a former U.S. and state representative, were the first and second place finishers, respectively, in the special election on July 31.

Election Day is Sept. 18. The winner will serve the remainder of Uresti’s term, which lasts through 2020.

Uresti vacated his seat in June after he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for felony charges regarding his involvement in a Ponzi scheme.

In the first round of voting, Flores received 34 percent of the vote, while Gallego got 29 percent. State Rep. Roland Gutierrez, who was eliminated from the runoff, received 24 percent.

Flores, who ran for the seat in 2016 and lost to Uresti, said Thursday his top priorities for the district, which covers much of San Antonio and a large swath of West Texas, would be working on meaningful property tax reform — he favors a statewide, uniform approach to calculating rates — and transportation, he said.

Gallego served as a U.S. representative from 2013 to 2015 before he was ousted by current Rep. Will Hurd. He also served for more than two decades in the Texas House of Representatives.

The Democrat said Thursday his priorities in the state Senate would be investing more money in Texas’ public schools, increasing access to health care for seniors and veterans, and emphasizing small businesses in economic policy.

Gallego has faced scrutiny about whether he lives in the district. He has repeatedly said he lives with his mother in Alpine, where he grew up, but his wife lives in a home in Austin, outside the district.

State law requires candidates to live in the district they’re running in for at least six months before the filing deadline.

The Republican Party of Texas filed a lawsuit in August regarding Gallego’s residency, trying to keep him off the ballot. A judge denied that request. The GOP said it has now filed a complaint with the FBI.

“(There’s) no update. I still live in the same place,” Gallego said Thursday.

A political consultant for Flores previously told the Express-News that Gallego’s claim of living in Alpine was “absurd,” but Flores himself distanced the campaign from the issue Thursday.

“We’re not a party to that (lawsuit). We’re gearing for a stand-up fight with Pete,” Flores said.

The state senate seat has belonged to a Democrat for at least the last 24 years, but Flores exceeded most expectations during the first round of voting, buoying Republican hopes in the district.

Flores performed even better on Election Day, garnering 48 percent of those votes — more than Gallego and Gutierrez combined — to overcome a deficit from the early voting period.

“Pete Flores came out of nowhere,” said Colin Strother, Gutierrez’s campaign strategist, after the election.

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

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