Naked City

Don't Bet Against Straus in 121

A popular San Antonio candidate running for an open House seat could be a key player, if only by family name, in a high-stakes effort to allow slot machines at Texas racetracks. Joe Straus III, a GOP hopeful in Saturday's special election to fill the District 121 vacancy, has family ties to the Austin Jockey Club, which seeks to build a racetrack facility in Pflugerville. Voters there will decide the controversial ballot item on Saturday.

Straus' most formidable opponent in the San Antonio contest is former state Supreme Court Justice Rose Spector, a Democrat with strong party backing and solid name ID. A third candidate, Paul Silber, is running as an independent. The House seat opened at the start of the legislative session, when Rep. Elizabeth Ames Jones, R-San Antonio, declined to take her Lege seat after Gov. Rick Perry tapped her to replace Charles Matthews on the Texas Railroad Commission. Matthews, a Republican with an independent streak, resigned to take a chancellor's position with the UT System. Straus announced his candidacy within hours after Jones officially vacated her House seat.

The Straus family is one of San Antonio's most prominent in civic and political circles, and candidate Straus enters Saturday's election with key endorsements from Perry, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith. Straus served as Smith's campaign manager in his first run for Congress. Spector also has deep San Antonio roots and is expected to be a favorite among women and independents in a district that leans Republican. Some conservative Republicans opposed to legalizing the so-called video lottery terminals at racetracks could give Silber, the independent, enough votes to force a run-off. The gambling proposal died in its previous Lege life last year, but most bets hold that a comeback is inevitable.

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