Many voters are experiencing déjà vu Saturday night as San Antonio heads into yet another fierce runoff election between two very different candidates for mayor.
Neither Mayor Ron Nirenberg nor Councilman Greg Brockhouse won more than 50 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election. Bexar County reported an 11.47 percent voter turnout, a slight increase compared to the last municipal election. Results of the entire election can be viewed here.
With nearly all the precincts reporting, Nirenberg led Brockhouse by more than 3,000 votes and 3 points, which was a slight increase from the early voting totals, but not enough to claim outright victory. Still, Nirenberg liked his chances in a runoff. Two years ago, he bested incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor in a runoff after leading the Election Day vote.
“Every contested race I’ve been in has gone to a runoff,” Nirenberg said. “The union is going to double down on their guy. The community is going to double down on me. I like those odds.”
Taylor led the May election with 42 percent compared to Nirenberg’s 37 percent. Nirenberg cinched the runoff with 54 percent, but now he’s on the other side of incumbency. The City has set the runoff election for June 8.
Brockhouse was equally as confident saying he came into the election with momentum that continued through the night.
“Fifty-two percent of the city rejected Ron Nirenberg,” Brockhouse said. “For him [an incumbent mayor with previous experience on Council] to be in a runoff, I think is an embarrassment.”
Campaigning efforts intensified during the last couple weeks as it appeared the two frontrunners were in a closer race than many thought they would be when Brockhouse announced his candidacy in February.
Voters faced a clear choice between Nirenberg, who is widely considered progressive, and Brockhouse, who leans conservative. Nirenberg’s campaign messaging focused on maintaining the momentum established in his first term on ambitious long-term planning efforts aimed at tackling some of the City’s toughest challenges – housing, transportation, and climate change – while Brockhouse focused on picking those efforts apart as overspending initiatives that were sending the City in the wrong direction, disconnected from the residents.
However, Nirenberg’s campaign mailers attacked Brockhouse personally and focused on two domestic violence incidents involving Brockhouse, as outlined by a San Antonio Express-News report. Brockhouse has denied any wrongdoing and was not arrested or charged in those cases.
Brockhouse’s campaign materials and debate talking points highlighted Nirenberg’s votes against lowering the City’s property tax rate and removing Chick-fil-A from an airport contract as “anti-faith [and] anti-business.”
Brockhouse said Saturday he thinks Nirenberg will continue his attacks in the weeks leading up to the runoff.
“When you’re desperate you’ll do anything to win when you’re that type of politician that Ron Nirenberg is,” Brockhouse said. “I’m not that type of politician. I’ll take Ron to task for his failed leadership, about his lack of accomplishment and the things he’s done in City Hall – which amounts to about zero. … I’m not going to attack him as a man or as a father or as a person. I’m not going to do that.”
Nirenberg defended his first term on Saturday saying his work was just beginning.
“You know, I hear the criticism from my opponent that this work is incomplete,” Nirenberg said Saturday. “You can’t build a house without laying a proper foundation. We’re building the foundation for the future, he’s building a house of cards.”
Nirenberg’s wife, Erika Prosper, also took aim at Brockhouse during Nirenberg’s watch party – describing Brockhouse’s campaign as a “long con.”
“The long con that makes you believe that a man who has spent his life dedicated to helping others, which is the true Christian way, is somehow not [a Christian],” Prosper said. “[San Antonio], I hope we understand that we are smarter, better, and more united than any con artist.”
Brockhouse cited Erika’s comments as further evidence of desperation.
“You can keep going into the gutter and you can keep attacking me personally,” Brockhouse said. “I’m talking about San Antonio and its future. … The majority of San Antonians rejected Ron Nirenberg. They are looking for something different – I just have to make the argument now that that different is me.”
In the next month, Nirenberg appears more financially suited to make a strong final stretch. From March 26 to April 24, Nirenberg’s campaign raised $103,561 more than Brockhouse’s, according to the most recent campaign finance reports filed. Nirenberg reported $131,536 in monetary donations compared to Brockhouse’s $27,975.
Nirenberg also had more cash to spend this week with nearly $88,000 cash on hand. Brockhouse reported almost $11,500, but the police and fire union political action committees also spent money on Brockhouse’s behalf. Before he was elected to represent District 6, he worked as a political and marketing consultant for both public safety unions.
It was unclear how much was spent on Brockhouse specifically, but at least $15,838 was spent by the fire union PAC on field workers and advertising for him. PACs are not required to file reports as frequently as local candidates.
“Look I think it’s an unprecedented assault from the two unions,” said Kelton Morgan, Nirenberg’s campaign manager. “Both of them, the two unions, essentially paid for [Brockhouse’s] entire campaign in terms of the advertising that they’ve done. We expected this, we expected it to be close, that their spending was going to have an effect, and it has. But we’re still confident that when all is said and done that Mayor Nirenberg still comes out on top.”
Nicholas Frank contributed to this article.