SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: Find more on each of these key races and others, as well as voting resources, on our Vote 2020 page.
An ongoing pandemic has heightened the stakes for what was already expected to be an intense election season.
More than a million voters across the country have already cast their ballot early or by mail.
In Texas, early voting kicked off on Tuesday morning, giving residents three weeks to cast a ballot before Election Day on Nov. 3. Tens of thousands of voters across Texas lined up to cast their ballot on the first day of early voting.
From the top of the ticket, where President Donald Trump is running for reelection against former Vice President Joe Biden, to local positions in Bexar County, there are plenty of races worth keeping an eye on. See the full ballot here.
Here are the key races we’re watching in the 2020 election in Bexar County, ordered based on how they’ll appear on the ballot:
Not only has the presidential race energized both parties' bases, but several key issues at the federal level are driving voters to the polls across the country.
The economy has struggled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and voters will likely be thinking about that issue when they cast their ballots.
Beyond that, a pending Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and an ongoing legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act and its pre-existing condition protections are key issues that both candidates have talked about on the campaign trail.
President Trump, who was recently infected with COVID-19, is hoping voters remember the economic gains made in this country before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile, Biden hopes that a broad coalition of liberals, independents and Republicans who feel like Trump has not done enough to contain the virus will vote him into office.
Recent polling shows that Biden is up by 17 percentage points in Bexar County. In Texas, the race has ranged from a dead heat to a 7-point lead in polling over the last few weeks. Nationally, Biden has a roughly 10-point lead in polling averages, according to FiveThirtyEight.
The pandemic has led to a massive increase of mail-in voting, meaning that this race may not be decided on election night. If the race is especially close, the campaigns may end up in court making the case for why votes should or should not be counted.
In 2018, Democrat Beto O’Rourke showed how competitive Texas politics can be, coming within three percentage points of beating Republican incumbent Senator Ted Cruz.
This fall, Air Force veteran MJ Hegar is hoping build on that momentum to flip the seat against incumbent Senator John Cornyn.
But Hegar faces an uphill battle in the Lone Star State, where voters have elected Cornyn to the U.S. Senate since 2002 and Republicans have won every statewide election since the early 1990s.
Cornyn is leading in the race, according to polling by the Texas Tribune, but this race may end up closer than the pollsters expect. Most polls put Hegar at a roughly 2-point disadvantage compared to Biden’s numbers against Trump.
Hegar has argued that Cornyn is out of touch with his constituency, while Cornyn has said that Hegar is beholden to national Democratic politicians who want to make Texas more liberal. See their full debate from last week here.
Texas Congressional District 23
Watch the U.S. House District 23 debate above.
Texas Congressional District 23 is always a competitive district and the upcoming race will not be any different.
Republican Will Hurd narrowly held on to the border seat in 2018 in a race that was decided by less than 1,000 votes. The largest margin of victory in the district since 2010 was 5 percentage points in 2012.
Hurd’s 2018 opponent, Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones, is hoping to win the election this time against Navy veteran Tony Gonzales.
Both candidates have the endorsement of their party’s presidential nominee, and the seat could help determine the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The district, which includes parts or all of 29 counties and two time zones, spans roughly 58,000 square miles from San Antonio to the edge of El Paso along the Texas-Mexico border.
Jones, who has outraised Gonzales, has made health care a cornerstone of her campaign. She has been campaigning virtually from her San Antonio home and throughout the district and hasn’t held an indoors event since March.
In contrast, Gonzales has held in-person events throughout the district. Gonzales said he’s running on economic mobility and will prioritize the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic if elected.
It would not be surprising to see this CD-23 race be decided by a razor-thin margin again in November.
Texas Congressional District 21
After winning his first congressional bid in 2018, Republican Congressman Chip Roy is facing a significant challenge in former Texas state Senator Wendy Davis.
While Roy wants a quicker return to economic normalcy, Davis has criticized him for not taking COVID-19 seriously enough.
Davis, who is best known for holding 13-hour filibuster to block a bill restricting abortion rights in Texas in 2013, has outraised Roy in this race. The district covers a vast area north of San Antonio and many communities along the I-35 North and I-10 West corridors, spanning parts of nine counties.
History is on Roy’s side, however. The district has voted Republican consistently since 1986. But, as with most places in the state, that’s changing.
In 2018, Roy only won the seat by three percentage points, so expect another close race.
Texas Senate District 19
Pete Flores shocked Texas political experts by winning the District 19 state senate seat in a low-turnout special election, becoming the first Republican to win there since the Reconstruction era in the 1870s.
The seat was vacated after disgraced former state Sen. Carlos Uresti was sentenced to prison for bribery.
Flores is hoping to keep the seat in November, but he’ll have to go through state Rep. Roland Gutierrez first.
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.
Gutierrez has made a name for himself in San Antonio, serving as a former council member before his time as a state representative.
Flores has stronger ties to the rural parts of the district, serving as a state game warden for nearly 30 years. He’s also the peace officer in the Texas Senate and a law enforcement veteran.
With the increased turnout expected in 2020, Gutierrez has the edge in this race.
Texas State District 121
In a crucial rematch of the 2018 midterm elections that Democrats are counting on in 2020 in hopes of getting a majority in the Texas House, incumbent Republican Steve Allison is facing Democrat Celina Montoya in District 121.
Allison succeeded former Speaker of the House Joe Straus in a district long held by Republicans that covers parts of north-central and northeast San Antonio, as well as the cities of Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills and Olmos Park.
Montoya hopes more campaign cash this time around and the political climate tied to the COVID-19 pandemic will help her score an upset.
But Allison, who defeated Montoya last time by 8% of the vote, is counting on his conservative values, community service and time in the Texas Legislature to win reelection. He has been endorsed by the San Antonio Express-News.
Bexar County Sheriff
Despite a number of issues going on within the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, voters are expected to reelect Javier Salazar to the post in 2020.
According to a recent Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report poll, Salazar had the support of nearly 60% of the survey respondents.
During his first term, Salazar dealt with many of the same challenges and issues that plagued the jail and sheriff’s office for years, including numerous arrests of deputies and jailers, mistaken releases of inmates, escapes and deaths at the jail.
Despite that, Salazar said progress has been made, arguing there is now a higher standard of hiring for deputies and jailers, and more safeguards in place to prevent accidental inmate releases.
Rickhoff has no law enforcement experience, which he views as a good thing. Rickhoff, who has previously held office as Bexar County clerk, said he’d bring a fresh perspective to help resolve the ongoing issues within the sheriff’s office.
If Salazar wins, he will be the first sheriff reelected to the position since 2004.
Bexar County Commissioner Precinct 3
Watch the Bexar County Precinct 3 Commissioner debate above.
With Kevin Wolff, the lone Republican Bexar County Commissioner, stepping down from the Precinct 3 post, voters who live in northern Bexar County will decide on their next representative.
In the past, the precinct has been a Republican stronghold, giving an edge to GOP candidate Trish DeBerry. DeBerry, who unsuccessfully ran for San Antonio mayor in the past, has touted herself as a fiscal conservative.
Christine Hortick, who is running for office for her first time, has been an attorney for 20 years with her own practice.
Both candidates hope to shape Bexar County’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.
DeBerry opposed recent cuts to the constables' offices, while Hortick supported the measure, saying the data supported the cuts.
Previously, only two women have ever held a seat on Bexar County Commissioner’s Court, according to the Express-News.
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