This story has been updated.
A new poll of registered voters in San Antonio shows strong support for reelecting Mayor Ron Nirenberg to a third term, with more than two-thirds approving of his job performance.
The latest Bexar Facts/KSAT/San Antonio Report poll released Tuesday found that 53% of respondents said they would vote for Nirenberg in the May 1 election, while 3% were leaning toward casting a ballot for the incumbent mayor. That’s more than double the support for Nirenberg compared to the next most popular candidate; 18% of respondents said they would vote for former District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who forced Nirenberg into a runoff in 2019 and lost by 2 points. Three percent said they were leaning toward voting for Brockhouse.
The latest Bexar Facts poll results can be found here. Pollsters collected answers from 618 people via online surveys in English and telephone interviews in both English and Spanish between March 23 and March 29. Read more about the survey methodology here.
Another 3% of respondents said they would vote for Denise Gutierrez-Homer, a candidate in the mayoral race who previously sought the District 2 council seat but narrowly missed a runoff in 2019. Meanwhile, 19% of respondents said they would vote for other candidates or were undecided. Eighty-four percent of respondents described themselves as “certain” or “very likely” to vote.
Nirenberg has staked much of his reelection bid on his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic and recovery efforts. The tactic seems to be working: The poll found Nirenberg holds a 67% approval rating, with 45% of respondents saying they strongly approve of his job performance and 22% saying they somewhat approve. Those numbers are similar to those in the September 2020 Bexar Facts poll in which 65% either strongly or somewhat approved of his performance.
Nirenberg said Tuesday having statistical data to provide feedback on issues such as his job performance “is certainly helpful.”
“I think it confirms what we’re hearing from the community and from people observing San Antonio – that the work that we have done together as a community and the teamwork that we have displayed once again in a moment of great challenge has placed San Antonio on a strong trajectory for recovery,” he said. “[It also shows] that people see that there is significant work for us to do, but their elected leaders are committed to doing that work and that there is good reason to be hopeful about the future in San Antonio.”
Though mayoral and city council races are nonpartisan, poll respondents identifying themselves as Democrats who said they were at least somewhat likely to vote in May leaned heavily toward Nirenberg, with 84% saying they would likely vote for him. Twenty percent of those describing themselves as Republicans said they would vote for the incumbent mayor. Only 3% of Democrats said they would likely vote for Brockhouse, while 49% of Republicans said the same. Of the independents polled, 45% said they would likely vote for Nirenberg and 23% said they would likely vote for Brockhouse.
Brockhouse said Tuesday that his own data shows a more encouraging picture of his campaign’s efforts.
“My supporters know we’re an underdog campaign,” Brockhouse said. “It’s literally our brand. Our data indicates when we deliver our message to voters, our share of the electorate grows, while [Nirenberg’s] shrinks. We’re right where we were in 2019 and we are confident we’re on the same trajectory.”
Brockhouse questioned the poll results, noting that Christian Archer, one of three founders of the nonprofit Bexar Facts, was previously listed on Nirenberg’s campaign finance committee. Archer said he requested his name be removed from the committee and has not donated to Nirenberg’s campaign, but acknowledged that he would likely contribute in the future.
The poll’s measuring stick for mayoral candidate support was straightforward, Archer said.
“It’s a very simple question,” he said. “Who do you support?”
The latest Bexar Facts poll was conducted after the February winter storm, which caused power and water outages across San Antonio when energy demand spiked and pipes froze in sub-freezing temperatures. Though 57% of respondents said they disapproved of the way local government handled the winter storm and ensuing power outages, the blame was almost entirely pointed away from Nirenberg. Fifty-two percent of respondents held ERCOT the most responsible for power and water outages caused by the winter storm while 13% said Gov. Greg Abbott and 10% said CPS Energy were most responsible. Only 2% held the mayor most responsible.
As the April 19 start of early voting approaches, Nirenberg also is outraising Brockhouse threefold. In his most recent campaign finance report, which covers the period between Jan. 1 and March 22 and was filed April 1, Nirenberg reported raising $317,620 and has $189,529 cash on hand. Brockhouse raised $100,755 during the same time frame and has $25,320 cash on hand.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic stalling campaign efforts, both Nirenberg and Brockhouse have drastically improved their fundraising since the last municipal election. Brockhouse nearly doubled his fundraising and maintained about $10,400 extra in cash on hand compared to his financial report at this point in the 2019 campaign. Nirenberg raised more than twice as much compared to where he was at this point two years ago. But his available cash reserves seem less robust – Nirenberg reported about $94,000 less cash on hand compared to 2019.
Nirenberg has spent about $38,000 more this year than the same time in the last city election; he reported $197,224 in expenditures between Jan. 1 and March 22. Brockhouse reported $68,011 in expenditures during the same time, an increase of about $23,500 since the last election.
Though Brockhouse strengthened his financial position since 2019, he will be vying for the mayoral office without the backing of the firefighters’ union, which spent thousands of dollars on his behalf during the last city election. The police union has not announced an endorsement in the mayoral race.
Nirenberg’s campaign has declined invitations to debate his opponents ahead of the May 1 election, choosing instead to participate in forums without interaction between candidates. Gilbert Ocañas, Nirenberg’s chief political consultant and campaign chair, told the San Antonio Report in March that the campaign does not think anything “productive” would come out of a debate. Nirenberg has said in the past he wants to avoid a “horse race” between himself and Brockhouse.
“As the campaign takes shape that could change, but the public was dragged through enough political drama last year,” Nirenberg said in February.
Nirenberg, Brockhouse, and Gutierrez-Homer will each have time this month to answer questions in forums hosted by the San Antonio Report, KSAT, and Bexar Facts.