Women Ruled Election Night in San Antonio

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Women tore up the place in Tuesday’s party primaries in San Antonio and across Texas.

  • Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, took 41 percent of the vote against four other Democrats­ ­– including Jay Huling, a one-time House intelligence committee staffer who was endorsed by the Castro brothers – in Congressional District 23. She’ll face Rick Trevino (17 percent) in the May 22 runoff to determine who will take on GOP Representative Will Hurd in the general election.

  • Statewide, Lupe Valdez, the openly gay Dallas County sheriff, won 43 percent in a field of nine Democrats seeking to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott in the fall. She’s in a runoff against Andrew White (27 percent), a Houston businessman and son of the late Gov. Mark White.

  • Scooping up two of every three votes, Monica Ramirez Alcantara stripped the title of Bexar County Democratic Party chairman from the swaggering, blustery Manuel Medina.

  • Two women and two men competed to become the next GOP county chair. Voters sent the dudes home, and Cynthia Brehm (45 percent) and Jo Ann Ponce Gonzalez (23 percent) into a runoff. You may remember Brehm as the sulphur-chewing conservative who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2015 and forced Manny Pelaez into a runoff last year in City Council District 8.

One way of reading Tuesday's results is as a rebuke to the misogyny of President Donald Trump, and a rejection of his brand of over-the-top, testosterone-soaked politics. (While DA Nico LaHood fell to Joe Gonzales in the Democratic primary, we're guessing the prosecutor's machismo and crazy combativeness were big turnoffs for a lot of voters.)

Former State Sen. Leticia Van Putte, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2014 and for San Antonio mayor the following year, marveled at women’s strength at the polls Tuesday. Female candidates surged across the state, in both major parties, she said.

Truth be told, though, it was an awkward moment for Van de Putte, who now runs a lobbying firm with former Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade.

I interviewed Van de Putte as she worked her way through the crowd at Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo's campaign headquarters in a down-at-the-heels strip center on Fredericksburg Road. She's one of the 82-year-old pol's closest allies — she calls him compadre — and it was clear by then that he'd face Queta Rodriguez in a runoff. (Correction: The original version of this story included the incorrect term of endearment that Van de Putte uses for Elizondo.)

Rodriguez, the daughter of former City Councilwoman Lourdes Galvan and LULAC hellraiser Henry Rodriguez, is a retired Marine and serves as Bexar County's veterans service officer. She was one of two Democrats trying to deny Elizondo a tenth four-year term on commissioners court. Rodriguez, 47, edged out the other challenger, Mario Bravo, the 41-year-old Texas outreach specialist for the Environmental Defense Fund.

She carried 30 percent of the vote to Elizondo's 45 percent.

"Queta has a very compelling story," Van de Putte acknowledged. But Elizondo has the power of incumbency.  "Commissioner Elizondo will depend on his extensive history and his network of supporters to win."

Not every major female candidate advanced, of course. State Rep. Diana Arevalo lost a close one to Trey Martinez Fischer in the Democratic primary in Texas House District 116, with only 115 votes separating them out of more than 9,000 cast.

Arevalo won the seat in a special election in early 2016 after Martinez Fischer stepped down to run for the Texas Senate. Last fall, preliminary polling showed that Martinez Fischer not only retained strong name ID but many voters believed he was still their state representative, according to a TMF campaign insider.

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