Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Attorney Steve Allison defeated business owner Matt Beebe in the Republican runoff for the Texas House seat being vacated by House Speaker Joe Straus. Allison claimed 57 percent of the vote to Beebe's 43 percent Tuesday night in the House District 121 race.
The results came as fewer than 6 percent of Bexar County's registered voters went to the polls to decide runoffs for local, state, and federal races. At the top of the ticket for Democrats was the contest to determine who will challenge prohibitive favorite Gov. Greg Abbott on Nov. 6. Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez pulled away from Houston businessman Andrew White to win with 53 percent of the vote.
The battle for Straus' seat illustrated the battle within the state's Republican ranks between moderates and conservatives. Allison was endorsed by Straus, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), the San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Texas Association of Business. However, he was criticized by his opponent in a series of direct mail advertisements accusing him of not supporting gun rights.
Allison characterized Beebe’s mailers and attacks as lies.
“I take great offense [in Beebe’s assertions] and I think voters did, too,” Allison told the Rivard Report.
Beebe previously challenged Straus in the 2012 and 2014 GOP primaries. An Air Force veteran and business owner, Beebe received endorsements from groups including Texans Right to Life, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texas Values, and Empower Texans.
Beebe indicated that he may have been hurt by "exceptionally low” turnout. In a speech to supporters Tuesday night, Beebe said he was disappointed Allison “went negative.”
Allison previously served as a school board member in the Alamo Heights Independent School District and was vice chairman of the VIA Metropolitan Transit board. In the March primary elections, Allison and Beebe competed with four other Republican candidates, with Beebe getting just under 30 percent of the vote and Allison claiming 26 percent.
House District 121 covers Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, Terrell Hills, and other parts of Northeast San Antonio.
In the Nov. 6 general election, Allison's Democratic opponent will be Celina Montoya, who faces an uphill battle in the Republican-dominated district.
23rd Congressional District
In the 23rd Congressional District, Gina Ortiz Jones declared victory before 8:30 p.m. in her runoff with former school teacher Rick Treviño for the right to challenge U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, considered one of the most vulnerable members of Congress. Ortiz Jones grabbed 68 percent of the vote.
"I think what we proved tonight is we are ready to beat Will Hurd," she said.
A former Air Force intelligence officer who served in Iraq and as an advisor for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, Ortiz Jones won 41 percent of the vote in the March primary and received significant support at the national level, including Emily's List, which supports pro-choice female office seekers, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Red to Blue initiative that seeks to flip GOP-held seats to the Democratic column.
Hurd has represented the district, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso along the U.S.-Mexico border, since 2015.
21st Congressional District
The 21st Congressional District seat left vacant by the impending retirement of Smith is considered by most political observers to be safely in the Republican column. Chip Roy of Dripping Springs defeated Boerne's Matt McCall with 53 percent of the vote in their GOP runoff.
Endorsed by Smith and Sen. Ted Cruz, his former boss, Roy was by far the better-funded of the two Republicans. The former Senate staffer also reportedly received more than $1 million from the super PAC of the conservative Club for Growth.
In his victory speech, Roy, struck an inspirational tone, heavy on references to the Bible, the Constitution, and World War II, with no mention of McCall.
“The answer is not me,” Roy said. “The answer is not Ted Cruz. The answer is not Donald Trump. … It’s our choosing the path to serve the Lord God almighty and preserving the blessing the Lord has bestowed upon us to live freely in the United States of America.”
McCall, a businessman, had mounted unsuccessful primary challenges to Smith in 2014 and 2016.
On the Democratic side, Joseph Kopser, a military veteran turned tech businessman, emerged with 58 percent, compared to 40 percent for his opponent, mathematician and minister Mary Wilson, who surprised observers by getting the most votes in the March primary.
In his victory speech shortly before 10 p.m., Kopser talked about building a coalition among progressive Democrats, independents, and “disillusioned Republicans” unhappy with President Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress.
“We know that we can win in November if we focus on what it is we all have in common rather than that which divides us,” Kopser said.
That may prove difficult for Kopser in a district that voted for Trump in 2016 with just under a 10-point margin. In his speech, he rattled off a list of positions that are toxic to many conservatives, such as health care as a universal right, stricter gun control, fighting climate change, and supporting a woman’s right to an abortion.
Kopser campaign spokeswoman Madison Kaigh said the campaign has been visiting all corners of the district since March and drew on the support of roughly 500 volunteers.
Kopser’s financial strength was surely a factor, with the candidate raising nearly $1.2 million, compared to Wilson’s less than $100,000, the Texas Tribune reported. Kaigh said recent TV ad in the Austin market especially connected with voters.
“We are really proud that we were able to establish a machinery that frankly Democrats haven’t had in this district in 30-plus years in terms of campaign infrastructure, staff, and volunteer efforts,” Kaigh said.
Bexar County Commissioner Pct. 2
Longtime incumbent Paul Elizondo fended off a Democratic runoff challenge from Queta Rodriguez to make a run for his 10th term on the Bexar County Commissioners Court. Elizondo had 52 percent to 48 percent for Rodriguez, the county's veterans services officer.
Elizondo was seeking to extend his three decades-plus tenure on the Commissioners Court representing Precinct 2, which encompasses the western part of the Bexar County. He claimed the most votes in the March primary, taking 46 percent, but Rodriguez forced a runoff by drawing 30 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race.
On Tuesday night at his campaign headquarters, he thanked supporters, who included Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and fellow Commissioners Chico Rodriguez (Pct. 1) and Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3).
Elizondo, 82, campaigned on his record during his long tenure, saying he wanted to complete projects that include the improvements to San Pedro Creek. Rodriguez, 47, claimed that Elizondo had lost touch with the needs of his precinct.
Rodriguez said she was proud of what her campaign accomplished despite "a really big challenge." That challenge, she said, was an incumbent that outspent her 25 to 1.
Elizondo spent about $267,000 on the runoff election, according to Bexar County records, just less than 25 times Rodriguez spent – almost $11,000.
"[Money is] very very very important to a race like this," Elizondo said. "Money is the mother’s milk of politics."
Rodriguez did not say if she would support Elizondo in the November election, but she did say she would support fellow Democrats.
The winner of the runoff will face Republican Theresa Connolly in the November general election, but likely will have an easy path to victory in the heavily Democratic Precinct 2.
Bexar County Republican Party Chair
In the runoff for Bexar County's Republican Party chair, Cynthia Brehm defeated Jo Ann Ponce Gonzalez, pulling almost 70 percent of the vote.
Brehm also was the top vote-getter in the primary, securing 45 percent of the vote to Gonzalez's 23 percent. Brehm ran unsuccessfully last year for the District 8 City Council seat, losing in a runoff to Manny Pelaez.