In a year of record-breaking turnout for local elections, five City Council seats are headed for runoffs on June 5 – including three races with incumbents.

District 2 incumbent Jada Andrews-Sullivan held on for a runoff spot by a narrow margin, edging out the third place candidate by 248 votes. Her former communications director Jalen McKee-Rodriguez had 2,259 votes, the most by far in the race, netting him 26.4% of the unofficial vote after early vote and election day ballots were counted Saturday. Fewer than 1,500 people voted for Andrews-Sullivan, giving her 16.8% of the vote.

McKee-Rodriguez, a 26-year-old high school math teacher, said he was elated by the results of Saturday’s election. If elected, he would be the first openly gay Black council member in San Antonio. 

“I am so grateful,” he said. “I know that incumbency is a machine. It’s one of those things that’s so hard to overcome. … But we built a movement, and I think that that shows the results of listening to the community, being a part of it, doing your research.

“It was a packed field and there was clearly no absence of leadership in any of the challengers. We have talent in D2 and when our leadership fails, we’ll have people ready to step up.”

As she has said before, Andrews-Sullivan argued stability in leadership was a top priority and is something that District 2 has not seen for some time. The last person to represent District 2 for more than one term was Ivy Taylor, who served from 2009 to 2014, when she was appointed mayor to replace Julián Castro, who had taken the position of housing secretary in the Obama administration. 

“Consistency matters,” Andrews-Sullivan said. “It makes a difference when you’re doing the work of a district that has been left behind.”

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and Councilman John Courage (D9) also were pushed into runoffs after garnering only 44.9% and 47% of the vote, respectively. Candidates must get 50% plus one vote to win a City Council seat outright. 

Treviño, who is is seeking a fourth and final term, will face second place candidate Mario Bravo, who had 33.6% of the vote. Bravo, an energy team project manager for the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, exulted in Saturday’s results, saying that the voters came out to voice a need for “fresh leadership.”

“My phone’s been ringing off the hook all day,” he said Sunday morning. “I’ve been getting Facebook messages, I’m getting text messages from people saying, ‘Hey, we’re coming to join your team. Can we please get a yard sign? Send me the link to donate. We’re all in. Let us know how we can help.’”

Treviño said he had been hoping for a “sure outcome” on Saturday night but that his campaign would continue to move forward.

“I knew coming into this election that it was different,” he said in a statement Sunday. “The pandemic and current political climate have brought awareness to our governing processes and pressed for community leaders to be held accountable to their responsibilities. I will continue to do the work and meet with residents to let them know what has been done over the last 6+ years and what I have planned for the next two.”

Meanwhile, Courage reckoned that, with two candidates in District 9 “vigorously campaigning,” his chances of entering a runoff were about equal with winning his election outright. Between March 23 and April 21, runoff opponent Patrick Von Dohlen, a partner of a financial planning firm, and the third place finisher, attorney Erika Moe, outraised Courage. Von Dohlen also outspent him.

“I’m not necessarily disappointed,” Courage said. “Obviously I would have preferred to win outright and not have a runoff, but you know that’s the way elections go. I’ve been in runoffs before.”

Courage is seeking a third term. He won his seat in 2017 after a runoff but secured his second term outright in 2019. Courage will face Von Dohlen, who ran in 2019 as well. Von Dohlen received 35.7% of the vote Saturday.

Unsurprisingly, the two races without incumbents will have runoffs. In District 3, which Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran will vacate this year, her sister Phyllis Viagran secured a spot with 22% of the vote. She will face Tomas Uresti, brother of two other politicians: former State Sen. Carlos Uresti, who is in prison after being convicted of 11 felonies, and Albert Uresti, Bexar County’s tax assessor-collector since 2013. Tomas Uresti received 14.8% of the vote.

Viagran said she was excited to see such high turnout during a local election. This year, 17.2% of registered voters cast ballots while in the 2019 and 2017 May elections, turnout stayed below 12%. Though she expects voter turnout for the runoff to dip, Viagran said she anticipates the large number of races to attract more attention than in past runoffs.

“I think a lot of us are going to be working to kind of get the vote out,” she said.

Teri Castillo, who will face Rudy Lopez in the District 5 runoff, struck an even more optimistic tone.

“I believe we are going to see a steady increase in voter turnout for June 5, because that we know it’s possible to steer District 5 in a direction that works for us,” she said. “And it’s going to take electing our campaign to ensure that we have that bold leadership that meets the material needs of our constituency. I believe because of that, we will see a steady increase in turnout for June 5.”

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales is serving her fourth and final term as the District 5 representative, which left the race to replace her wide open. Castillo, an urban policy historian and member of the Historic Westside Residents Association, had a strong lead in the District 5 race with 30.7% of the vote. Lopez, who serves as the president of the Thompson Neighborhood Association, came in second with 14.7% of the vote.

Candidates Lopez, Uresti, and Von Dohlen did not respond to requests for comment.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.