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Two Democrats Face Off For Last House Seat

Voters head to the polls Tuesday in Bexar County to chose between two Democrats in the second round of the race to replace former state Rep. Jose Menéndez, D-San Antonio.

Delicia Herrera (left), a former member of the San Antonio City Council, and former Bexar County prosecutor Ina Minjarez (right) are on the ballot Tuesday in the runoff to replace Jose Menendez, now a state senator. The San Antonio Democrat vacated his seat in House District 124.

It's Election Day again in Bexar County. 

Two Democrats are on the ballot Tuesday in a runoff to fill the last vacancy in the Legislature, replacing former House District 124 Rep. José Menéndez, now a state senator. Former San Antonio City Councilwoman Delicia Herrera and former Bexar County prosecutor Ina Minjarez have made few waves throughout the sleepy contest, which went to a runoff after neither won a majority in the first round. 

Minjarez is favored thanks to her nearly 14-point lead over Herrera in the March 31 vote, and formidable fundraising since. Herrera, meanwhile, is looking to flip the script with a round-the-clock get-out-the-vote operation. 

“The goliath in the race is Ina Minjarez," said Manuel Medina, chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party. "She started out with a commanding lead going into the runoff and picked up a lot of money in the short time, very impressively."

“At the same time, Delicia is block-walking and block-walking and block-walking," Medina added. "In a low-turnout election, block-walking might result in a surprise.”

The race's first round yielded the lowest turnout in modern history for a competitive special election for a legislative seat. If early voting totals are any indication, the second round could bring slightly more voters to the polls Tuesday.

The contest has also stood out as a lopsided money race. Over the past month, Minjarez has reported raising more than $53,000, while Herrera has disclosed taking in just over $15,000 since April 1. Heading into the last week of the runoff, Minjarez had more than $15,000 in the bank to Herrera's roughly $2,400, according to state records.

Although each candidate has talked up education and transportation, issues have not been front and center, and no debate has been held since the first round. 

Voters instead have a series of endorsements to consider as they head to the polls. Minjarez has the backing of the Texas AFL-CIO, the San Antonio Express-News editorial board, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Annie's List, the group working to elect more Democratic women in Texas. Herrera counts among her most prominent backers the San Antonio Board of Realtors and the San Antonio Fire and Police Pensioners' Association. 

Patsy Woods Martin, the executive director of Annie's List, said the group is doing something it has not done before: not just endorsing a candidate, but also calling and emailing its supporters in the district. That's on top of pouring more than $8,000 into the race in the past week alone, state records show. 

"She’s able to build a broader coalition of support, and I think that’s something that’s really important and is showing to be a strong contrast with her opponent," Martin said Wednesday.

Herrera's campaign has fashioned itself as a scrappier contrast with some of the big money and high-profile endorsements that have flowed to Minjarez. Still, Herrera is anything but an outsider in HD-124: Her city council district, which she represented for two terms, covers 90 percent of HD-124, according to her campaign. 

Greg Brockhouse, a longtime district resident who has been campaigning for Herrera, said the runoff is coming down to a "ground game versus a mail game." Brockhouse, who identifies as a Republican, said Herrera's tenure on the nonpartisan city council uniquely qualifies here to be effective in Austin. 

“Sometimes it just comes down to the ability to get things done, and when it comes to a Republican-controlled Legislature, Delicia has just head-and-shoulders above anybody else been able to prove that in the past," Brockhouse said.

Whoever wins Tuesday will likely serve during the final few weeks of the regular legislative session before facing the voters again in 2016. The district, which covers a swath of San Antonio's West Side, is solidly Democratic.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday in HD-124. 

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Politics José Menéndez