In a stunning upset, a Republican Texas State Senate candidate has beaten a well-known Democrat in a state district where Democrats have ruled for 139 years.
In Tuesday’s runoff election, retired game warden Pete Flores beat Democrat Pete Gallego (yes, both are “Pete.”). The upset is incredible because the Republican Flores is a first-time candidate and Gallego is not only a former State Representative, he was also once a Congressman. So, his name recognition was much higher than his GOP challenger’s.
But, even more to the point, the seat Gallego expected to win has been held by members of his party since the 1800s! And he just lost it to a fledgeling Republican!
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The Democrat who most recently held the seat did not help his party much, granted. The seat was vacant because State Sen. Carlos Uresti was forced to step down after being sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison for money laundering.
Still, it was widely assumed that Gallego would easily win the seat and keep it in Democrat hands. As PJ Media notes, the district went for Hillary Clinton 54-42 in 2016 and broke for Obama 55-44 back in 2012. But this time the district flipped Republican in a 53 to 47 vote.
PJ Media continued:
Flores reportedly received “backing from some of the state’s most prominent politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and U.S. Sens John Cornyn and Ted Cruz,” according to MySA.com. He was also likely a beneficiary of a superior ground game, as the GOP has outraised Democrats and radically upped their ground game in recent years.
“We conservatives are conservative in the way we make approaches. The gun fight’s not over until the last shot’s fired,” Flores told the Express-News after Gallego conceded in a phone call just before 9 p.m. “The last shot’s been fired.”
In his victory speech, Flores spoke of the historic significance of his win.
“This district has not been Republican since Reconstruction. And in September of 2018, it’s Republican once again,” Flores told supporters. “The work starts tomorrow.”
“I owe this first to God and then to the grassroots in all of our counties in Senate District 19,” Flores said in his acceptance speech. “Primarily this is an example of what happens when you have a united front and a grassroots effort. So now it’s time to go to work.”
The district, Texas Senate District 19, covers a large swath of south Texas along the border including San Antonio.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.
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