A look at what happened in the San Antonio mayor’s race

by | May 7, 2019 | Politics

Mayoral candidates in San Antonio’s general election will be facing off in a runoff on June 8 after both failed to get more than half the vote on Saturday.

The closely watched runoff election will hedge the top two candidates from Saturday’s race, Mayor Ron Nirenberg, a progressive, and City Council Member Greg Brockhouse, a conservative.

Brockhouse came within 3 percentage points of matching the incumbent mayor’s vote, a sign local experts say could signal dissatisfaction with Nirenberg’s first term in office.

“Almost all polling indicated the clear majority of voters think that the city’s on the wrong track and lack confidence in [Nirenberg’s] leadership,” longtime Texas political consultant Colin Strother told the Texas Signal. “What the election results show from Saturday night validates that.”

By the end of the first round, Nirenberg received 48.66 percent of the vote while Brockhouse received 45.57 percent. The other seven minor candidates failed to garner more than 1 or 2 percent of the vote.

Also of note, Strother said, is the fact that the electorate who typically comes out to vote during mayoral elections did not change this time around.

“It was the same people who always turn out, the same people who elected Nirenberg walked away from him,” Strother said. “You would assume he’s going to spend the next 30 days trying to win those people back. How he does that is the million dollar question.”

Roughly 110,000 voters showed up to the polls, representing about 11 percent of the city’s registered voters.

A challenge ahead, says Strother, is Brockhouse sharpening his campaign rhetoric to deal with some of the aggressive personal attacks that Nirenberg has used against him.

One example that occurred days before the race is Nirenberg’s launch of notfitformayor.com, a campaign-funded website that criticized Brockhouse as a domestic abuser and as someone who doesn’t pay child support.

Dr. David Crocket, chair of the political science department at Trinity University, echoed similar sentiments.

“I don’t want to say it was a rebuke of the mayor, but there was a sizeable percentage that was put off by something,” Crocket said, speculating it may have been voters responding to issues like ongoing firefighter negotiations with the city, the mayor’s banning of a Chick-fil-A from an airport because of the company’s anti-LGBT behavior, or the city’s decision to forgo hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention.

“The mayor’s position is not secure,” Crocket said. “Nirenberg is closer to getting 50 percent but [Brockhouse] doesn’t have to gain that much either.”

Another political science professor, Dr. Arturo Vega of St. Mary’s, also cited the mayor’s Chick-fil-a incident and firefighter negotiations as a possible reason for Nirenberg’s performance.

“You would have expected the incumbent mayor would have done much better, this should have been a slam dunk for him,” Vega said.

Vega said it’s also likely the crowded field of candidates split the remaining vote and stopped either candidate from winning. Additionally, he said the race’s turnout suffered because of the lack of a Latino candidate– a big mistake in a city where 60 percent of the population is Latino.

“It’s anybody’s race now,” Vega said of the runoff. “It’s a new race.”

In one grim scenario for Nirenberg: He could end up suffering the same fate he dealt to his 2017 opponent Ivy Taylor, the former mayor of San Antonio who led during the general election but lost the runoff to Nirenberg.

You can read up on more Texas elections at the Texas Signal.

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