Scott Ball / Rivard Report
On a night when most of Bexar County’s state legislative delegation cruised to re-election, an open seat in House District 121 remained in Republican hands, with Steve Allison defeating Democrat Celina Montoya.
Allison, who emerged with 53 percent of the vote, claimed the title of Joe Straus’ successor in the district’s first election in more than a decade that featured a Democratic opponent.
“I learned a lot more about the district and what the needs of this district are that I think resonate with my background and platforms, so I’m looking forward to representing the district in the Legislature,” Allison said.
Straus held the HD 121 seat, which includes Northeast San Antonio and parts of the city’s urban core, since he won a special election for the post in February 2005. In Straus’ previous races, he didn’t always draw a challenger, and if he did, the moderate Republican was opposed by a Libertarian candidate. After he was first elected, Straus received at least 74 percent of the vote in the general election in his races.
Seeking her first elective office, Montoya received 45 percent of the vote and said that even with the results favoring Allison, there were reasons to be positive.
“We knew the numbers coming in,” Montoya said. “When it comes down to it, the community that we’ve built here, the work that we’ve done, and the information and the data that the Democratic party is going to be able to utilize for future races, I think is absolutely invaluable.”
Allison said he believes that the hotly contested U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke “tilted things quite a bit” but that his district is still solidly Republican and conservative.
Elsewhere, most Bexar County incumbents were leading their races as results came in, and Democrat Trey Martinez Fischer had a sizable lead in his race to reclaim the House District 116 seat he formerly held.
Senate District 25
Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) won re-election to the Texas Senate District 25 seat with 56.8 percent of the vote with 86 percent of precincts reporting. Her Democratic challenger, Steven Kling, garnered 43.2 percent.
A medical doctor, Campbell has represented the district, which covers six counties including parts of the Austin and San Antonio metropolitan areas, since 2013.
Kling, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, owns a small IT consulting firm in Austin.
House District 116
Martinez Fischer claimed a decisive victory over Republican opponent Fernando Padron in the State House District 116 race.
Martinez Fischer – who received 70 percent of the vote – spent more than a decade in the Texas House of Representatives beginning in 2001 before unsuccessfully seeking the State Senate District 26 seat in 2016. Padron received 29.7 percent.
Martinez Fischer will replace Democratic Rep. Diana Arevalo, whom Martinez Fischer successfully challenged in the primary.
Known for his tactical use of parliamentary procedure to block Republican-backed legislation, Martinez Fischer will return to Austin having the most legislative sessions under his belt among the Bexar County delegation.
A 48-year-old pastor and entrepreneur, Padron campaigned on issues such as reforming property taxes, sustaining current economic growth, and addressing gentrification if elected. He ran unsuccessfully for Bexar County tax assessor-collector in 2016.
District 116 – which spans San Antonio’s northwest corridor along Interstate 10, bounded by West Commerce Street to the south and Loop 1604 to the north – has not been represented by a Republican in more than 100 years, according to the Legislative Reference Library of Texas.
House District 117
Democrat Philip Cortez defeated Republican Michael Berlanga in the State House District 117 race, a seat that has swung between the parties.
Cortez garnered 57.2 percent, or 31,216 votes, with 55 of 71 precincts counted, according to unofficial results, while his opponent received 42.8 percent, or 23,357 votes.
“It’s the first time since 2008 … that someone from this district has been re-elected,” Cortez said after declaring victory Tuesday night. “For me to be the first in a decade speaks to some of the work we’ve done together with the residents, and I’m very grateful to the residents for giving me this consecutive term.”
A former San Antonio City Councilman and member of the U.S. Air Force, Cortez was first elected to the District 117 seat in 2012. He then lost his re-election bid to Republican John Garza in 2014 but regained the seat after the 2016 election.
Berlanga is a certified public account who saw property tax reform as his top issue.
The district hugs the Loop 1604 and U.S. Highway 90 corridors in an L-shape from Helotes to Von Ormy.
House District 118
Democrat Leo Pacheco won the race for House District 118, the seat his Republican opponent John Lujan held for less than a year from 2016 to 2017.
Pacheco, who defeated incumbent Tomas Uresti in the Democratic primary last March, held a 14-percentage-point lead over Lujan. Pacheco garnered 57.9 percent of the vote while Lujan received 42.1 percent with 64 of 68 precincts counted.
Lujan said he left a voicemail message for Pacheco to congratulate him on his victory.
Pacheco said more than his victory, which he called “satisfying,” he was elated to see how many voters turned out for a midterm election.
“I don’t see this as a blue wave,” he said, adding he is already scheduling meetings to set his legislative agenda. “I see this as a red, white, and blue wave. People are coming out to vote and make a difference.”
Lujan said he was honored to receive the support from those who volunteered to work on his campaign.
“That’s the worst part of it,” he said. “Not winning the election is not that big of a deal, but it’s a really big deal for the people that believed in me and supported me and really wanted it. … To come up short, it’s tough.”
A relative newcomer to the scene, Pacheco works as a human resource specialist at Palo Alto College.
Lujan is a retired firefighter and small business owner who runs an information technology firm with more than 400 employees.
The district includes much of San Antonio’s South Side and wraps around east Bexar County toward Schertz.
House District 120
Incumbent Barbara Gervin-Hawkins easily won re-election to represent House District 120, which spans east of downtown to Converse. She pulled 68 percent of the vote with close to 95 percent of precincts reporting.
“Well, I am so excited about what has happened tonight, and there was a talk of a blue wave, but I truly believe in Bexar County, it was a blue tsunami,” Gervin-Hawkins said.
Prior to Gervin-Hawkins’s election in 2016, Ruth Jones McClendon held the position for two decades.
During her freshman legislative session, Democrat Gervin-Hawkins authored two bills that were signed into law. One dealt with creating a shortened educator preparation program for people who wanted teacher certification in trade and industrial workforce training. The second increased the amount of money going to schools for new instructional facilities.
Payne is a retired military officer whose three-decade long military career brought him to San Antonio. The Hawaii-born Republican candidate touted his a strict reading of the U.S. and Texas constitutions.
House District 122
Republican incumbent Lyle Larson returned to the statehouse office that he has held since 2010, capturing 62 percent of the vote and defeating political newcomer Claire Barnett.
“Appreciate the support of the folks in Northern Bexar County,” Larson said in a text Tuesday night. “Look forward to continuing to serve them over the next two years.”
The general election proved an easier race than Larson’s primary, when Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed challenger Chris Fails and dubbed Larson “Liberal Lyle.” Larson cited his role in passing ethics legislation addressing gubernatorial appointments as the reason for the dispute with Abbott.
In the most recent legislative session, Larson chaired the Natural Resources Committee. Five of the bills he authored that passed the House and Senate were vetoed by Abbott.
Barnett worked as a consultant for adult education programs for more than a decade. She received 38 percent of the vote.
House District 122 stretches from halfway between Loop 410 and Loop 1604 to close to Bulverde.
House District 124
Ina Minjarez was on her way to re-election as the House District 124 representative with more than half the vote counted. Minjarez, who won her seat in a special election in 2015, obtained 68 percent of the vote. House District 124 covers the far West Side of San Antonio.
Minjarez said she felt “definite relief” at the early voting results. Looking at other state results, Minjarez said she felt Democrats could be able to pick up a few seats in the Texas House and the Texas Senate.
During the interim legislative session, Minjarez was appointed by Straus to serve on the Opioids and Substance Abuse Select Committee and on the House Select Committee on Cybersecurity. She was named the “Rookie of the Year” by Texas Monthly magazine following the most recent legislative session.
Minjarez’s challenger, Johnny Arredondo, received a little more than 32 percent of the vote. He previously ran unsuccessfully against Councilman Rey Saldaña for the District 4 seat.
House District 125
Democrat Justin Rodriguez was on his way back to Austin in January to represent House District 125, following a large lead in voting with close to 80 percent of precincts reporting. He received 81 percent of the vote.
“We are obviously very happy with the results in Bexar County, and I know it is still early, but the sense was from the energy all over San Antonio and Bexar County that Democrats were going to do very well,” Rodriguez told the Rivard Report.
Rodriguez, an incumbent Democrat who has represented the West Side district in the Legislature since 2012, previously served on the San Antonio ISD school board.
Rodriguez previously served on the House Appropriations committee and was also a member of the House Pensions committee and Higher Education Formula Funding interim committee.
Eric Piña, a Libertarian candidate, was Rodriguez’s only challenger. With 60 percent of precints’ results tallied, Piña collected 19 percent of the vote.
House Districts 119 and 123
Incumbent Democrats Roland Gutierrez and Diego Bernal will retain their offices after running unopposed for their seats in Districts 119 and 123.
Staff writer Nicholas Frank contributed to this article.