Governor Greg Abbott announced today the date for the runoff in the emergency special election runoff for Senate District 19. Election day will be September 18, with early voting running from September 10-14. This runoff will fill the seat previously held by the former state senator Carlos Uresti (D).
Former Colonel Game Warden and Republican Peter Flores came in first in the special election held on July 31. Pete Gallego, a former one term Democratic Congressman from TX 23, finished second. Flores and Gallego are battling to replace Uresti, who resigned in June after being convicted of 11 felonies.
On Aug. 10, the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) filed a lawsuit challenging the residency of Gallego. RPT Chairman James Dickey claims it is “common knowledge Gallego does not live in Senate District 19” and explains that Gallego has “for years lived with his family in Austin.” It is a state constitutional requirement that a candidate for the Texas Senate must live in the district he or she runs in for at least a year before the election. However, residency claims are particularly difficult things to contest in court given vagueness in state law.
Gallego’s wife, an attorney who practices primarily in Austin, claims a homestead exemption on a home she owns in Austin. State law only allows a person to claim one homestead exemption.
On Aug. 13, RPT attorneys requested a Temporary Restraining Order to keep the Texas Secretary of State from certifying Flores and Gallego for the runoff election. Dickey explained “Pete Gallego lives in Austin with his family, receives a homestead exemption there, and has twice sought loans from federally insured banks on his [Austin] house.”
Christian Archer, Gallego’s campaign manager, responded to the RPT lawsuit, focusing on Gallego’s property in Alpine (within SD 19). Archer asserted that Gallego “has lived in Alpine since 1989… [he] is registered to vote in Alpine, where he has always voted, and where he pays his utilities.” Furthermore, Archer claimed the RPT lawsuit to be “a desperate move on behalf of a failing campaign.”
Flores won 34.4% of the votes in the special election, while Gallego earned 28.9%. Flores came out ahead, but he was the only major Republican in the race. The Democratic vote was split mainly between Gallego and State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D, HD-119), who received 24.4% of the votes. SD-19 has always been represented by a Democrat. However, the fraud convictions surrounding the resignation of Uresti and the mystery of Gallego’s true residence might be the perfect storm for a Flores victory next month.