Aaron Pena says that his House colleage Carlos Uresti has an announcement to make tomorrow, but the cat is out of the bag already: He's going to challenge State Sen. Frank Madla in the Democratic primary this March.
Bolstered by early polling numbers, Uresti believes he's in a strong position to best Madla, whom he claims has voted against the interests of his constituents and is often MIA in the expansive 55,000-square-mile district.
"Politics is about perception," Uresti said. "People believe he's been a good Democrat, but that's a misperception."
But Madla, a seasoned legislator with 32 years in the Capitol, said he has served District 19 well and is "very, very comfortable from where I sit."
The three-term senator has made the acquisition of a Texas A&M campus on the South Side a cornerstone of his legacy, but he added he will continue to work on issues such as water and the interests of schoolchildren in rural areas.
The race, expected to be one of the hotter match-ups on the March 7 ballot, revs up with some bad blood.
Madla said Uresti repeatedly told him that he would not run for the seat until Madla retires.
"I can't respect a decision when someone says they're not going to run against me and then they turn around and run against me," he said. "Not once, not twice, but three times."
Uresti, on the other hand, says he was consistent in telling Madla that he intended to "keep his options open."
He was emboldened after getting the results of a poll conducted early last month.
The survey of 400 likely Democratic primary voters in the district showed that if the election were held today, 41 percent would cast a ballot for Madla and 23 percent would vote for Uresti.
Uresti points to those numbers as evidence that, despite the fact that Madla has represented the region for 12 years, his support isn't even double that of Uresti.
But Madla said the power of incumbency is powerful in a district that spans from South Bexar County all the way to El Paso County and includes all or part of 23 counties.
"It's going to be a nightmare for him," Madla said. "I don't care how much passion he has. Unless he has $3 million to pour into this campaign, it's going to be very difficult to create name ID in a district this size."