AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The race to replace embattled former State Sen. Carlos Uresti will likely either keep a hold on the Democratic district or cement the Republican control of the upper chamber.
Texas’ 19th senate district spans from San Antonio to Pecos, touching 17 counties. Its leader, Democrat Carlos Uresti, resigned in June after convictions for federal money laundering and fraud charges. He said he would appeal his 12-year prison sentence.
“Sen. Uresti was under fire for a very long time and I think everybody is looking forward to having a fulltime senator who is focused on their needs — the needs of the constituents of the 19th senatorial district, instead of concentrating on his legal defense,” Democratic political analyst Harold Cook said.
Four Democrats, three Republicans, and one Libertarian candidate filed to fill the spot Uresti leaves behind.
Among them: Uresti’s brother, State Rep. Tomas Uresti, who lost his seat in the March primary, former Congressman Pete Gallego, and State Rep. Roland Gutierrez. Poteet attorney Charlie Urbina Jones joined the Democratic race as well.
Retired 27-year Game Warden Pete Flores, a Republican frontrunner, picked up key endorsements from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S. senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Flores faces fellow Republicans Jay Alaniz and Carlos Antonio Raymond. Libertarian Tony Valdivia also filed for candidacy for the July 31 special election.
“It’s a valuable Senate seat, and so that’s why you have eight people have put their name on the ballot,” said Flores campaign strategist Matt Mackowiack.
Cook said Democrats would “scratch and claw” to hang on to the seat to prevent political loss, and try to flip other races in the chamber, literally adding seats to the table.
Republicans hold 20 seats, while Democrats hold 11, meaning the margin for meeting the 3/5 threshold for certain procedural points is slim. Flipping the seat from blue to red would give Republicans a two-thirds majority, creating even more opportunity to grease the GOP wheels on control of the Senate.
“There’s some pretty high stakes here if the Republican candidate were to steal this seat, it would be a party change and would strengthen the lieutenant governor’s hand in the Senate and strengthen the lieutenant governor’s hand at a time when we know that in the house there will be a new speaker,” according to Jim Henson, who heads up the Texas Politics Project.
He explained the dynamic between the governor, lieutenant governor and new house speaker would shift.
“If it remains in the Democrats’ hands, we still have a bit more of the status quo, it increases the difficulty that the lieutenant governor has had at some points in keeping the Republican coalition in the Senate together,” Henson added.
The top two candidates head to a run-off if nobody receives more than 50 percent of the vote.