In 2018, Texas State Senator Pete Flores ended century-long Democratic control of Senate District 19 during a low-turnout special election. The Republican Senator, who now sits on the influential Senate Select Committee on Redistricting, may be facing an uphill battle in the November general election. Flores is attempting to hold on to his seat in a district that — despite his special election victory — appears to still lean heavily Democratic. SD 19 is the largest geographic district in the Texas Senate, boasting 17 counties stretching from San Antonio to beyond Fort Stockton in West Texas.
Voter turnout is a major consideration for both sides after the low-turnout election that put Flores in office. And with less than four months until election day, the constituents of SD 19 are focused on the big question that still remains unanswered: Who will Democrats elect to face off against Flores?
The Democratic primary election, held in March, was pushed to a runoff between outgoing Texas House Representative Roland Gutierrez (HD 119) and political newcomer Xochil Peña Rodriguez. The runoff election, originally scheduled for the end of May, was delayed until July 14 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the Texas Senate poised to tip to either side and a redistricting committee seat for the Republicans on the line, the stakes in the SD 19 race are particularly high. Not having a solidified Democrat candidate until mid-July — coupled with the pandemic and general economic and social unrest — makes the outcome that much more unpredictable.
One thing we do have to go on is campaign finance data for the candidates. The numbers offer a glimpse into how Gutierrez and Rodriguez compare headed into their delayed runoff, and how each of them stack up against Flores.
Texas Senate District 19 – By The Numbers
|Roland Gutierrez (D)||Xochil Pena Rodriguez (D)||Pete Flores (R) (Incumbent)|
|Total Money Raised||$385,025||$98,327||$185,350|
|Total Number of Donations||309||261||93|
|Average Donation Amount||$1,246||$377||$1,993|
|Total Money Raised In-District||$10,150||$12,989||$21,500|
|Total Number of Donations From In-District||18||52||9|
|Percentage Raised From In-District||3%||13%||12%|
|Total Money Raised Outside District||$374,875||$85,339||$163,850|
|Total Number of Donations Raised Outside District||291||209||84|
|Percentage Raised From Outside District||97%||87%||88%|
|Cost Per Vote||$16||$7||$2.70|
State Representative Gutierrez has run for this senate seat previously. In 2018, he lost the primary to former U.S. Congressman Pete Gallego, who went on to lose the aforementioned special election to now-Senator Pete Flores. This time around, Gutierrez will not be running for reelection to the Texas House of Representatives, ending over a decade of service in that capacity. Rodriguez, on the other hand, has never run for office before.
As the SD 19 primary demonstrated, previous political experience is no assurance of victory. While State Rep. Gutierrez out-raised Rodriguez nearly four-to-one overall, the newcomer locked down more in-district dollars, a greater number of in-district donations, and ultimately, the most votes in the primary. It remains to be seen if Rodriguez’s momentum within SD 19 will carry her through the runoff, or if Gutierrez will prevail on July 14.
Either way, the Democrat candidate will have expended more resources on an extended runoff cycle, while incumbent Senator Flores has significantly greater cash-on-hand available (more than eight times more when the latest reports were filed) to run his campaign heading into the general election.
In the end, the only number that truly matters is final vote count on election day. Which side will be able to rally the greatest number of voters to their cause? With a redistricting committee seat on the line for the Republicans and a push by Democrats to alter the partisan balance in the Senate this year, the SD 19 race will directly impact the Texas political landscape for the upcoming legislative season.
But will it be enough to inspire voters to show up in an election season mired in social, economic and public health-related turmoil?
Transparency USA will be tracking the money alongside the election results this month. Join us here to see when the latest campaign finance data is available, and to follow the money in both Texas Senate runoffs.