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Republican Pete Flores upsets Democrat Pete Gallego in race for Uresti seat

By Patrick Svitek | Texas Tribune

Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego on Tuesday night in the special election runoff for Senate District 19, a major upset in a Democratic-friendly seat.

With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, Flores was leading Gallego by 6 percentage points in the race to replace convicted former state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. Flores had 53 percent of the vote and Gallego 47 percent in unofficial returns.Gallego conceded to Flores around 9 p.m., according to both campaigns.

"I owe this first to God and then to the grassroots in all of our counties in Senate District 19," Flores said in an interview. "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."

Flores is a former Texas game warden who unsuccessfully ran against Uresti in 2016, while Gallego is the former congressman from Alpine who previously served more than two decades in the Texas House.

The winner will finish Uresti's term, which stretches into 2021. The former lawmaker resigned in June after being found guilty of 11 felonies, including fraud and money laundering, related to his involvement with FourWinds Logistics, a now-defunct oilfield services company found to have perpetrated a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors.

The first round of the special election was July 31, when Flores beat expectations and placed first in the eight-way race after earning a raft of late endorsements from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and both U.S. senators. Gallego came in second, finishing atop a more crowded Democratic field that also featured San Antonio state Rep. Roland Gutierrez. 

The Texas GOP kicked off the overtime round with a lawsuit to remove Gallego from the ballot, claiming he was ineligible because he did not live in the district as required by state law. The effort was eventually unsuccessful, but Flores' high-ranking backers pressed forward, with Patrick, the Senate president, tapping his own campaign to the tune of nearly $175,000 to assist Flores.

 In ads, Flores depicted Gallego as a tax-loving liberal and "career politician" desperate to return to power. Gallego countered with his long-running message that he would be a safe, reliable choice for the district in the wake of the tumultuous period that precipitated Uresti's resignation.