On November 2, 2021, Republican candidate John Lujan won the special election runoff against Democrat Frank Ramirez for Texas House District 118. Lujan defeated Ramirez 51.2% to 48.8%.
Lujan held the seat for a brief time in 2016. On the other hand, Ramirez previously held positions as a former staffer for the San Antonio City Council and Texas Legislature.
According to the Texas Tribune, House District 118, which is 72.4% Hispanic and situated in southern San Antonio, went for Joe Biden by 14 points in the 2020 elections.
This is one of the latest areas with a predominantly Hispanic population and historically safe Democratic status that has gone to Republicans over the last year.
“I’m a blessed man to win this for the second time, and to be the only Republican ever to win this seat, I think, is really important for us down here,” Lujan told the Tribune. Lujan described his victory as part of a “big movement […] for conservatism” in the Hispanic community.
Ramirez shortly issued a concession statement. “We didn’t make it over the line tonight,” the Democrat candidate said. “But we gave Texas Republicans a run for their money at every single step.”
With Lujan winning his race, he will be replacing former state Rep. Leo Pacheco, D-San Antonio, who resigned earlier in 2021 to teach at San Antonio College.
The Associated Republicans of Texas, who backed Lujan, declared that the Republican’s victory “marks the beginning of Republicans winning Democrat-held seats in South Texas in the 2022 election cycle.”
Lujan finished in first place in the special election on September 28, when he received 42% of the vote. Ramirez only received 20% of the vote in that contest, where two other Democrats and a Republican were running.
Lujan got 42% of the vote in the special election in late September, while Ramirez got 20%. There was one other Republican running, as well as two other Democrats.
Lujan had a significant financial advantage in his race. As of November 2, Lujan reported receiving $446,000 in financial contributions to the Texas Ethics Commission since September 19, whereas Ramirez had only received $254,000 in donations during this same time frame.
In 2020, Republicans made unprecedented gains with Hispanics nationwide, especially in South Texas. Those gains have continued well into 2021.
For example, a Republican mayoral candidate, Javier Villalobos won his race in McAllen, an 85% Hispanic city. McAllen is in Hidalgo County, a county where former President Donald Trump made substantial gains during the 2020 election cycle compared to his 2016 performance.
Similarly, Starr County experienced a significant drift towards Republicans during the 2020 election cycle. In 2016, Hilary Clinton handily defeated Trump by 60 points, while Joe Biden barely beat Trump in 2020 by five points.
The most shocking county result along the southern border was in Zapata County, which Trump won by slightly over 5 points. This marked the first time Warren Harding was on the ballot a century ago that Republicans won the county.
Some of the highest-profile Republican gains in Miami-Dade County, which is 65% Hispanic, saw a significant shift among its electorate in 2020. Although Democrats won the county by 64% to 34% in 2016, Biden only won it by 53% to 46% in 2020.
In light of the recent election in Virginia, which saw Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin pull off an upset against former Governor Terry McAuliffe, several polls indicated that Youngkin obtained outright majorities with Hispanics.
An October 27-November 3 poll used by Fox News showed Youngkin winning 55% of the Hispanic vote.
However, CNN exit polls presented contradictory data where McAuliffe won Hispanics 66% to 33%.
While the data is still being parsed out, a growing trend points to Republicans continuing to make inroads with Hispanic voters.
With Texas’s electorate of roughly 30% of Hispanic voters, Hispanics’ continued pro-Republican drift could augur well for Republicans in the 2022 gubernatorial elections.