Ethics complaint against Texas state senate candidate tossed out days before start of early voting

Complaint filed earlier this year accused Xochil Peña Rodriguez of improperly reporting contributions

Watch party for Democratic candidate Xochil Peña Rodriguez.
Watch party for Democratic candidate Xochil Peña Rodriguez. (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIOUpdate - This story has been updated to include statement from Roland Gutierrez’s campaign and Xochil Peña Rodriguez’s campaign.

An ethics complaint against Texas State Senate candidate Xochil Peña Rodriguez has been dismissed days before the start of early voting, according to a copy of the order obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders Wednesday night.

The complaint, filed with the Texas Ethics Commission early this year, accused Peña Rodriguez of having inconsistencies in her campaign finance reporting.

Specifically, she was accused of leaving her father’s name off of a number of contributions.

State campaign finance records show she accepted $125,000 in loans from her mother, Carolina, between late last August and the day after last Christmas.

Peña Rodriguez also repeatedly listed monthly in-kind contributions for a campaign office as also coming from her mother.

Peña Rodriguez’s father, Bexar County Justice of the Peace Ciro Rodriguez, was not listed on the contributions.

State law prohibits judges from giving contributions to candidates for public office.

Who’s on the ballot for the July 14 runoff election in Bexar County

Neither the loan filings or the in-kind contribution reports included her mother’s address.

An official with the Texas Ethics Commission declined to comment on the order, claiming that information is only made available to the parties involved in the complaint.

The dismissal comes at a critical time in Peña Rodriguez’s District 19 State Senate campaign.

She is currently in a runoff with state representative Roland Gutierrez to represent the Democratic ticket in the November election against incumbent Republican Pete Flores.

Peña Rodriguez, a first-time candidate for public office, beat Gutierrez in the March primary but fell short of getting a majority of votes.

Early voting starts Monday for the July 14 election.

A spokesperson for Gutierrez’s campaign released the following statement late Wednesday night:

My opponent isn’t being 100% honest here. The fact is that the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct is still investigating her father for his illegal assistance to her campaign, and the Texas Attorney General is still investigating her Uncle for illegally steering the exact same amount of taxpayer money to her father that he then gave to her campaign. We had to put the last Senator in jail and if voters select any member of the Rodriguez Cartel we’ll see them put in jail as well. The fact is that she could have addressed this situation several times on camera and she refused to do so. I don’t trust her or her corrupt family and hope voters see through empty, baseless claims of innocence.

Peña Rodriguez released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

For months, Roland Gutierrez has been attacking me while hiding behind ‘Vote Texas PAC’ a mysterious Republican-funded PAC to spread lies and fake news about my campaign. The fraudulent complaint filed against our campaign was obviously a coordinated, politically motivated attack, but the Texas Ethics Commission quickly dismissed the case, clearing our campaign of the false allegations. Roland talks about ‘integrity’ a lot, but instead of running an honest campaign on the issues, he has decided that his only path to victory is through lying to voters. He is obviously colluding with Republican donors and a secretive PAC to influence the outcome of the Democratic primary for Senate District 19. Filings even show that just a couple of weeks ago they created their own fake newspaper to further spread lies and misinformation to voters. Roland Gutierrez and his campaign team will say anything, collude with anyone, Tweet lies and attacks, and even create a ‘fake news’ newspaper just to get elected. Sound familiar? Well maybe that works for the extreme Republicans who blindly follow their President, but we should be better than that.

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.