This article has been updated.

Both incumbent party chairs in Bexar County appear to be facing runoff elections for their seats as each of the party chairwomen drew the most votes in their respective races but were unable to win outright.

Facing three opponents in her bid for a second term, Democratic Party Chair Monica Alcántara drew 30.9 percent of the vote, followed by Grace Rose Gonzales with 27.3 percent. Challengers Norma Jean Witherspoon and Juan Hernandez garnered 24.5 percent and 17.4 percent, respectively.

Republican Party Chair Cynthia Brehm drew 33.5 percent of the vote in a four-candidate field and will face John Austin, who got 31.4 percent, in a May 26 runoff. Charlotte Williamson Eisenhauer followed them in third place with 24.9 percent of the tallies while Chinto Martinez trailed at 10.2 percent.

Bexar County Republican Chair candidate John Austin greets friends and supporters at his watch party. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Each of the county parties has faced inner turmoil over the past two years, with the county Democratic Party effectively splintering into two groups – an unofficial local Democratic Party holds its own meetings and runs an altogether separate operation while Brehm has received fractured support since taking office in 2018. 

Since assuming her role in 2018, Alcántara has borne the brunt of opposition from those who supported the administration of predecessor Manuel Medina. The former Democratic Party chair held the position for six years before losing in 2018 to Alcántara on the heels of a failed mayoral campaign the previous spring.

Brehm’s tenure has also been marred by turbulence since she took the seat two years ago. After she was sworn in, state and local Republican officials called for her resignation. The calls came soon after details surfaced about Brehm’s husband’s 1999 guilty plea in military court to “indecent liberties with a child.” 

She was back in the headlines in December after being accused of assault, although charges were never filed, and again in February following her initial resistance to signing a joint agreement giving the County authority to run both primaries concurrently in March.

Brehm could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.

Watching the results roll in from Taco Garage while surrounded by friends and family, Austin said he and his team expected a runoff because there were “three strong candidates.”

He added he’d spoken with Eisenhauer before voting began, and the two of them had agreed to support whoever faced off against Brehm in a runoff.

“It’s nothing personal, she’s a nice woman, but she didn’t do a good job,” Austin said of Brehm. “Charlotte and I want to connect with a lot of the party, and we realize we need someone to unite us.”

Alcántara said she was not surprised her race came down to a runoff with so many candidates in the race, and it was something she and her team had already been planning for.

“It was designed to be that way by the former chair,” she said, referring to Medina. “So we knew it was in his plans.”

Going forward into a runoff, Alcántara said she looks forward to pulling everyone back together. She added she wants to see the party continue to grow and for members to focus on the party’s real challenge: securing a Democratic president.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Gonzales had not responded to requests for comment.

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.