SAN ANTONIO – Two years ago, Pete Flores stunned the Texas political landscape by winning the District 19 state senate seat.
The Pleasanton native and then political newcomer defeated Democrat Pete Gallego in a special election in September 2018 to become the first Republican to serve the sprawling district since the Reconstruction era in the 1870s.
Flores now faces Democratic candidate Roland Gutierrez and Libertarian candidate Jo-Anne Valdivia in the November election.
Before his run for the Texas Senate, Gutierrez had been a member of the Texas House of Representatives, representing District 119 since 2008. Prior to that, Gutierrez served on the San Antonio City Council from 2005-2008.
District 19 covers more than 35,000 square miles including about 400 miles of the Texas-Mexico border, making it one of the largest legislative districts in the United States.
The district encompasses 15 full counties and portions of Bexar and Atascosa counties, stretching from East San Antonio to Eagle Pass, Del Rio and past Pecos. Sixty-eight percent of the constituents are Hispanic.
As of March 2020, the district was home to an estimated 902,000 people, contained 51 public school districts and included parts of the Eagle Ford Shale and the Permian Basin. It is a key battleground district in the Texas legislature.
Flores’s unprecedented victory in September 2018 came after Carlos Uresti’s resignation following fraud and bribery charges that ultimately led to a conviction. Uresti, a Democrat, had held the office since November 2006.
Flores flipped the traditionally blue district to red in large part because of his connection to the district’s rural counties. He was a state game warden for 27 years and was the first Hispanic Game Warden Colonel in Texas history.
Flores is also the only peace officer in the Texas Senate and a law enforcement veteran. He is part of several senate committees including criminal justice, finance, health and human services, higher education and natural resources and economic development.
In his first legislative session, Flores has authored or sponsored bills that focused on infrastructure and funding for the renovation of San Antonio State Hospital (SASH).
Flores has been a proponent of economic development in smaller cities in the district and said he has secured funding for increased access to rural veterans claims counseling.
He has also worked on property tax relief and reform at the state level. Flores was the co-author of the Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019, which provides immediate property tax relief and limits future tax-rate growth.
Gutierrez, a South Side native, has specialized in immigration law for the past two decades after graduating from St. Mary’s Law School and UTSA.
His campaign for District 19 has focused on continued help for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Gutierrez has pointed to his legislation that established the National Center for Warrior Resiliency at UT Health San Antonio, along with adding measures to protect and support of military bases.
Gutierrez has also authored bills to assist and protect sexual assault victims in Texas. His proposals have led to the development HemisFair Park and the creation of manufacturing jobs.
He also has pushed to legalize cannabis for adults and medical use to help fund teacher salaries, law enforcement and border security, thus taking the burden off raising property taxes.
Early voting for the general election runs from Oct. 13-30 with election day on Nov. 3.