It's Election Day. Here’s What West Texans Need To Know About Runoff Candidates.
By Marfa Public Radio Staff
Today, Texas voters will cast ballots for candidates that will run in the general election in November. The Texas primary runoff election will determine the candidates for a range of races, including U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Texas House and Texas Senate.
Texans can check their voter registration status and find their nearest polling locations on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.
U.S. House District 23
Texas’ 23rd Congressional District is a swing district covering 29 counties in West and South Texas. When Republican Congressman Will Hurd announced his retirement last year, several Texans set out to take his place. The runoff election for this race will determine the candidate to face off against Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who narrowly lost to Hurd in the 2018 midterm election.
Tony Gonzales is a former navy cryptologist from San Antonio. He started out as a high school drop out and went on to serve in the military for 20 years. He’s now finishing up his doctorate and also has experience on capitol hill. The Republican recently served as a national security fellow for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Gonzales has received the backing of Rep. Will Hurd, which brought a boost to his campaign — but the San Antonio hopeful states though that he’s his own politician. Gonzalez’s key issues are promoting what he calls traditional family values and preserving the sanctity of life, improving the country's military and protecting the Second Amendment.
Raul Reyes Jr.
Raul Reyes grew up in Del Rio, Texas and went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force as a Cyber Space Officer and Foreign Area Officer. Reyes holds a Bachelor of Science in Math and a graduate degree in Computer Resource and Information Management. After retiring from the U.S. Air Force, Reyes served as the the Vice President of Administrative Affairs at Southwest Texas Junior College and started a construction business.
Reyes' key issues are job creation in District 23, working to overturn Roe v. Wade, protecting Second Amendment rights and repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Texas State Senate District 19
State Senate District 19 covers a large swath of West Texas — it spans 17 counties, from Pecos down to Brewster and stretching all the way to San Antonio. For over 100 years, Texas Democrats controlled the district, but that came to a sudden end last year when Republican Pete Flores won the state seat in a Special Election.
The election came as Carlos Uresti, the region’s longtime state senator, stepped down after he was found guilty of wire fraud and money laundering. Now, less than two years later, Democrats are organizing to take back the Senate seat from Republican control. The winner in this runoff election will clinch the Democratic candidacy and compete against Pete Flores in November.
Many West Texans are likely already familiar with Roland Gutierrez. The San Antonio lawyer currently serves in the Texas House as a representative for District 119. Gutierrez was also part of the democratic contenders who lost to Pete Flores in 2018 for SD19.
When he talks about his policies, Gutierrez says a part of his platform centers on legalizing marijuana in Texas. He estimates the state could bring in $3.5 billion in tax revenue every two years if they legalized cannabis. Gutierrez believes the state is missing out on a cash cow that could fund much-needed programs.
For example, he believes healthcare programs in the rural areas of the district could be funded with the money generated by a marijuana industry
On the topic of gun reform, Gutierrez is in favor of expanding background checks to private sales and instating extreme risk protections, which are also known as red flag laws. As for state funding for border security, he believes the $800 million that goes to the Department of Public Safety should be put back into the state’s general fund. From there, he proposes, $500 million — generated from legalizing weed — would be distributed to border sheriffs and communities to fight cartels and to fund infrastructure projects
Xochil Peña Rodriguez
She may be a newcomer to state politics herself, but Xochil Peña Rodriguez comes from a family with roots in Texas politics. The San Antonio lawyer is the daughter of the former Texas U.S. Representative Ciro Rodriguez who served in Washington D.C. for over a decade and who is now a justice of the peace in Bexar County.
After Republicans gained control of SD19 in 2018, Rodriguez says she felt she had to step up and run for office. For Peña Rodriguez, she wants to be a part of the change she feels Texas needs right now.
When she recalls the moment she decided to run, she remembers looking around and not really seeing many women in the Senate. She believes “having people with more diverse views can help greatly with the priorities we need to be taking care of” in Texas.
On the healthcare front, Peña Rodriguez wants to expand the threshold of who qualifies for Medicaid. And when it comes to the border and security, that responsibility falls to the federal government in Rodriguez’s opinion. As a state senator, she would move to strike the hundreds of millions of dollars going to the Department of Public Safety for border enforcement and divert those funds to border communities. This would give residents more power in how their tax dollars are being spent on the border.
Along with her opponent, Rodriguez is in favor of expanding background checks to private sales of firearms and closing other loopholes in Texas. Rodriguez says she isn’t against guns but believes too many lives have been lost and that “common-sense gun reform” needs to be enacted.