An empty chair on the House floor on Oct. 12, 2021. Credit: Michael Gonzalez/The Texas Tribune

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Republican John Lujan and Democrat Frank Ramirez are facing off in a special election runoff Tuesday for a Texas House seat in San Antonio that the GOP is determined to flip.

The candidates are competing to replace former state Rep. Leo Pacheco, D-San Antonio, who resigned earlier this year to teach at San Antonio College.

Lujan briefly held the seat in 2016. Ramirez is a former staffer for the San Antonio City Council and Texas Legislature.

Election results will start coming in after 7 p.m. Central Time.

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The seat on San Antonio’s South Side is Democratic-friendly, President Joe Biden carried it by 14 percentage points last year. But Republicans have zeroed in on it as part of a push to make new inroads in South Texas after Biden underperformed in the region there last year.

Lujan was the top finisher in the special election late last month, getting 42% of the vote, while Ramirez placed second with 20%. There were two other Democrats running, as well as one other Republican.

Despite the high stakes, the runoff has featured little direct conflict between the two candidates. However, Democrats have sought to make Lujan answer for his support from Gov. Greg Abbott and the staunchly conservative turn the state has taken this year under Abbott. Lujan, a veteran firefighter and former Bexar County sheriff’s deputy, has centered his campaign on less controversial issues like public safety and jobs.

Lujan has maintained a wide financial advantage in the runoff. As of Tuesday, he had reported $446,000 in contributions to the Texas Ethics Commission since Sept. 19, while Ramirez had $254,000 in donations over the same period.

National and statewide groups on both sides have poured money into the runoff, and dozens of House members have gotten involved, lending their time and money to each candidate. Ramirez has campaigned with Beto O’Rourke and other prominent state Democrats, while Lujan has benefited from the support of Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont.

Disclosure: San Antonio College has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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