Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Candidates for Texas House District 125’s special election are campaigning right up to Election Day on Tuesday, doing their best to get out the vote. Early voting closed Friday in the contest to fill former State Rep. Justin Rodriguez’s seat with typically low voter turnout.
Out of the 103,494 voters registered in the district, 3,354 cast ballots during early voting, putting turnout just above 3 percent. Election day is Tuesday, Feb. 12, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Northwest San Antonio district.
Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said she expected a low turnout during a special election.
People usually prefer to vote early rather than wait for election day, Callanen said, estimating that about 50 to 60 percent of voter turnout comes from early voting during an election. Based on that number, election day should draw another 2 percent of total registered voters in the district, she said. She predicted total turnout would be between 4 percent and 4.8 percent.
“If we can get 5 percent on this [election], that would be good,” she said.
Five candidates are up for Rodriguez’s House seat that became vacant in January when he was sworn in as Bexar County Commissioner for Precinct 2. Former HD 125 Rep. Art Reyna, former District 6 City Councilman Ray Lopez, policy advocate Coda Rayo-Garza, and activist Steve Huerta are the four Democratic candidates, while businessman Fred Rangel is the only Republican in the race.
The abbreviated campaign season started in January; candidates have only had a month to reach out to voters. Like his opponents, Lopez braved the sleet on Friday to block-walk before early voting ended. Much of his outreach has been educational, as many voters were not aware of the special election, Lopez said.
“There were a lot of people in the beginning who were undecided because quite honestly, they haven’t given any thought,” he said. “It’s not voter apathy — people weren’t expecting [an election]. Getting out the vote is important.”
Rayo-Garza said she and her campaign team has been working on building momentum in the short campaign season. She continued to pick up endorsements from organizations such as Planned Parenthood Texas Votes and the Texas Organizing Project during the early voting period.
“Those endorsements and the support of those organizations is so critical, because our campaign truly is a grassroots campaign,” she said. “It’s been so humbling to watch this grow.”
Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn announced his support for Rangel on Monday. Rangel also nabbed endorsements from Gov. Greg Abbott, the National Rifle Association, and multiple anti-abortion political action committees.
“Fred has been an active local Republican and business and community leader in San Antonio for many years,” Abbott said in a statement. “He shares my commitment to reining in property taxes and ensuring that Texas remains the nation’s economic leader.”
Rangel said it was “big” to get support from Abbott.
“In my mind, it’s a pat on the back for recognizing work that I’ve done in the past,” Rangel said. “It makes you feel very grateful for the governor to support your efforts.”
Rangel said he voted on the first day of early voting. He was not surprised by the low turnout, but said he would keep urging people to get to the polls.
“I think we’re gaining ground,” he said. “In this 72-hour push, it’s going to be very, very exciting.”
Reyna said he’s been trying to reach as many people as possible through door-knocking, cold-calling and campaign flyer-mailing. He and his team are confident in their work, he said.
“We feel good,” Reyna said. “Do we take anything for granted? No. We expect a runoff, at least. Anybody who thinks they’re going to run without a runoff is probably wrong.”
Rayo-Garza said no matter the outcome, the campaign had been a growing experience.
“This entire race happened really quickly,” she said. “But that just meant we had to grow quickly, and learn quicker. It’s not over yet, so that means there’s more growing and more work to be done. But I’m excited about all of those things.
“I’m looking forward to Tuesday as well.”
Thirty-one polling locations will be open, but voters must vote in their precinct. To find your voting location, check the Bexar County Elections Department website here.