Finally heeding calls from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, state Sen. Carlos Uresti announced his resignation Monday, four months after he was found guilty of 11 felonies.
The news comes just over a week before the San Antonio Democrat is set to be sentenced by a federal judge in San Antonio; experts predict his penalty will be 8 to 12 years of prison time. He's also scheduled for a trial in October on separate fraud and bribery charges.
“As you know, I am in the process of ensuring that justice is served,” Uresti wrote in a statement Monday. “I need to attend to my personal matters and properly care for my family. So, keeping in mind the best interests of my constituents and my family, I believe it to be most prudent that I step down from my elected office to focus on these important issues.”
Uresti’s sentencing — set for June 26 — will be based on federal guidelines, but judges have discretion to make sentences harsher or more lenient depending on individual circumstances. Resigning from public office may help the longtime lawmaker win a lighter punishment, and it may also help his case with federal prosecutors in his October trial.
His resignation will become effective Thursday.
In his announcement Monday, Uresti asked Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special election for the seat on the next uniform election date, which is the general election date in November. Doing so, he said, would save the district’s 17 counties thousands of dollars. The governor's office did not immediately return a request for comment on timing for the election.
Several Democrats have already lined up to replace Uresti. State Rep. Roland Gutierrez announced his bid for the seat less than a month after the conviction; in early April, former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego joined the fray as well.
In a fundraising email Monday afternoon, Gutierrez said that "one of the saddest, most embarrassing stories of Texas politics finally comes to an end."
"Texans from San Antonio to Eagle Pass and from Pecos to Del Rio finally have the chance to get leadership and representation they deserve," he said.
And in a Monday afternoon statement, Gallego said that as Uresti's "legal process continues, my focus remains the people of Texas," and he called on Abbott to order the special election as soon as possible.
Uresti was indicted last year on charges including fraud and money laundering stemming from his involvement with FourWinds Logistics, a now-defunct oilfield services company found to have perpetrated a Ponzi scheme against investors. Uresti worked as general counsel for the company, owned a 1 percent stake and earned a commission for recruiting investors, according to court documents. He was found guilty on all counts in San Antonio federal court on Feb. 22.
The San Antonio Democrat said immediately after the verdict that he had no immediate plans to step down and that he would appeal the ruling. Texas law allows him to continue serving in the Legislature until he exhausts the appeals process.
But even as he said he planned to stay the course, Republicans and Democrats alike called on him to give up his seat in the Texas Legislature, where he has served for more than two decades. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, stripped him of his committee assignments hours after the ruling.
First elected to the Legislature in 1997, Uresti is known for his advocacy on behalf of vulnerable children. Perhaps his greatest legislative achievement was the 2007 creation of a task force to tackle child abuse and neglect. For the last decade-plus, he has represented a district that stretches west from San Antonio all the way to the New Mexico border. In the months since his conviction, Uresti has resigned his law license and his wife of nearly six years has filed for divorce.