John Lujan, the Republican candidate for re-election in Texas House District 118, south and east of San Antonio, denied wrongdoing during a candidate forum on TPR’s “The Source” for allegedly served on a committee overseeing a $5.4 million contract. business has with the state.
Lujan’s business, an IT company called Sistema Technologies, has a contract with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to help businesses acquire their liquor licenses online.
Lujan, who won the seat in a 2021 special election, said he had done nothing improper.
“I immediately called the lawyers there in the House and said there was a potential conflict of interest, and they assured me there was no vote, ‘you have no say in anything, no influence on anything,'” Lujan said.
Lujan has pledged to sell all of his shares in his company if re-elected.
“The worst case scenario would be to just give up all my shares and not own this company, and I’ve decided to do that if I get re-elected,” Lujan said. “But I had this plan from day one when I won the stage [election].”
Frank Ramirez, Lujan’s Democratic challenger who also participated in the candidates’ forum, said he appreciated Lujan’s commitment but was speaking to a larger issue.
“The fact is, $5.4 million has been spent so far this biennium on this company, and I truly believe – and I think Rep. Lujan might believe as well – that conflicts interests do not belong in the public sphere,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said if elected in November, he would introduce a bill barring members of the state legislature from having business contracts with the state.
“I’m going to make it my business, once elected as a state representative…to introduce at least one bill and push it as hard as I can through the committee process that won’t allow this situation to happen anymore.” happen again,” Ramirez said.
Another criticism of the contract stems from complaints that the software provided by Sistema to TABC does not work properly. Ramirez said he’s spoken with restaurant owners who’ve had trouble getting their liquor licenses using the software.
“To me, it is disappointing to hear from people in our community who may be restaurant owners who sell alcohol and who have not been able to renew their licenses to sell that alcohol, which is a significant portion of their income,” Ramirez said.
Lujan defended his company and said that some bugs are always unavoidable when rolling out new software.
“If you asked all their [TABC’s] leadership, and that was before I was a state representative, that’s a great product,” Lujan said. “It saves Texans a lot of money. It is a rationalization process. It has moved from a paper-based way of doing business to an electronic way of doing business.
Lujan and Ramirez’s run is a rematch of the 2021 Special Election where Lujan beat Ramirez by two points. The seat was formerly held by Democrat Leo Pacheco.