A four-candidate race for San Antonio mayor is now a two-candidate contest with former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Mayor Ivy Taylor heading to a June 13 runoff, while former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, the first of the four candidates to enter the race, finished third, nearly three percentage points behind Taylor.
Villarreal inched up more than a full percentage point from his early voting total, but it wasn’t nearly enough to catch the incumbent mayor, who showed much greater political strength and finished closer to Van de Putte that many predicted.
With all votes counted, only 2% separated the two candidates headed to a runoff: Van de Putte had 25,982 votes, 30.43%, while Taylor had 24,245 votes, 28.40%. Villarreal had 22,246 votes, 26.06%. Former Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson had 8,344 votes, 9.77%. The other 10 candidates for mayor accounted for about 5% of the total vote.
Click here to access final vote counts in all city, school district, and area races.
Saturday’s city election was one with much at stake, including the race for mayor, all 10 City Council seats contested, City Charter amendments and aquifer protection and linear park expansion. Yet only 12.2%, or 85,270 out of 693,925 registered voters in the city, participated.
Nine of the 10 incumbent City Council members won easily. Councilmember Cris Medina fell short of winning outright Saturday, and will face Mari Aguirre Rodriguez in a runoff. None of the candidates backed by the police or firefighters union proved effective vote-getters.
Taylor proved surprisingly strong, given the fact she had far less money to spend on television commercials and she stayed mostly silent while both Van de Putte and Villarreal went negative in the final weeks of the race with mailers and social media campaigns attacking one another as well as Taylor. It’s too early to tell, but it’s likely that the suburban districts north of Loop 410 delivered strong support for Taylor, believing her to be the most conservative of the top candidates following her decision last summer to pull the City’s support for VIA’s streetcar project and her much-debated anti-NDO vote as a council member.
At this stage, the runoff race has to be seen as one without a real frontrunner. Motivating even 12% of the voters to turn out again on June 13 will be a challenge for both Van de Putte and Taylor, both of whom will be challenged to raise funds in a very short time period to try to reach voters with their message.
About 200 people gathered at Leticia Van de Putte’s election watch party at her campaign headquarters, a former bank on West Commerce Street. Apprehension hung low in the air as attendees awaited election results. An elaborate buffet was set out for guests, many of whom donned Van de Putte’s campaign shirts.
Van de Putte said she started her day early this morning attending various polls, touching about 200 people before 10 a.m.
“I’m so thrilled tonight with the outcome that we had; really so many supporters from all sectors of the community,” Van de Putte said. “What this means is that we are going to work even harder to earn the support of those San Antonians whose first choice didn’t make it all the way to the next level. And I’ll be reaching out my hand asking for their support and campaigning even harder.”
After her speech, Taylor was joined by friends and family on the dance floor to do “The Wobble,” a popular song and dance routine.
“I make my living off the well-being of this community. Employment is important to me because unemployed people don’t buy cars,” Ancira said.
“We’re very proud of the hard work that we’ve put forward, and the supporters here today are just a small example of the enthusiasm for our vision and our agenda,” Villarreal said. “It’s all about moving the city of San Antonio boldly and strongly into the 21st century.”
Supporters went silent when Villarreal announced that for the first time in years, he was going to enjoy life as a private citizen in San Antonio. He said that the election was successful, in that it pushed his opponents to create better urban plans, even if they did resemble many of his own ideas.
Adkisson tried to lift the spirits of the 100 or so people gathered at his campaign headquarters on East Southcross as he conceded a spot in the runoff was out of reach. He blasted the amount the other major candidates raised and spent, although this mayor’s race will fall far short of equaling the sums spent by former Mayors Phil Hardberger and Julián Castro in their winning efforts.
“I’m disappointed in the gargantuan amount of money it takes. It effectively acts as a bar for everyday citizens who would want to run for mayor,” Adkisson said. “This is a community that hasn’t elected a mayor in 100 years and that to me is an outrage. It’s one thing to have to raise $1 million to run for mayor. It’s another thing that one part of the city has been without a mayor for over 100 years. That’s primarily because the money requirement.”
Asked about his future plans, Adkisson said “it’s blue skies, as far as I’m concerned.” He still has an active law practice.
All but one of 10 City Council incumbents won Saturday. District Councilmember Mike Gallagher (D10) won with more than 81% of the vote, while Councilmember Shirley Gonzales (D5) won with more than 78%, and Councilmembers Joe Krier (D9) and Ron Nirenberg (D8) each won with more than 72% of the vote, all three of whom faced multiple opponents. Councilmember Rey Saldaña (D4) won with more than 65%. Councilmember Rebecca Viagran (D3) scored the lowest winning percentage, but even so, with more than 57% of the vote, she won in a walk.
Councilmembers Roberto Treviño (D1) and Alan Warrick II (D2) both showed surprising strength in winning outright, given that Treviño held the seat by appointment, and Warrick only recently won a special election to complete an unexpired term. Treviño won more than 66%, and Warrick won more than 62%, while Keith Toney, who originally held the District 2 appointment, only managed to win 23% in the rematch against Warrick.
In the only competitive council race, incumbent Councilmember Cris Medina (D7) received 4,688 votes, 46.88%, versus the top finisher of his four challengers. Mari Aguirre Rodriguez, who served a two-month interim term while Medina fulfilled reserve military duty in late 2014, was second with 2,780 votes, 27.8%. She will need to capture almost all of the 25% of the vote that went to the other three challengers to unseat Medina on June 13.
Aquifer Protection and Expansion of the Trailway System
Early voters favored by big majorities continuing to use a 1/8 cent sales tax to protect the aquifer recharge zone by purchasing development rights over the sensitive recharge zone, and to continue to expand the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System.
City Charter Amendments
Early voters overwhelmingly favored a public vote on any future light rail of streetcar projects involving the City of San Antonio, voting yes by a 66.96-33.04% margin.
At the same time, it appears voters agree it’s time to start paying the mayor and City Council members real wages, voting 54.78-45.22% to pay the officeholders the media household salary in San Antonio, plus 35% for the mayor. The pay would go into effect on July 1. The mayor currently earns $50 a week, while council members earn $20 a week.
Proposition 3 & 4
Voters also approved two other City Charter amendments, agreeing that voters, not City Council, should decide who fills vacated offices in when the mayor or council member leaves office before completing an elected term. They also approved an amendment that would allow the charter to have legal language change to conform to current state law. Props 3 and 4 passed with more than 80% of the vote.
Freelance and staff reports Lea Thompson, Edmond Ortiz, Joan Vinson, and Iris Dimmick contributed to this report.
*Featured/top image: Leticia Van de Putte (left) and Mayor Ivy Taylor celebrate their election wins Saturday at their respective election watch parties. Photos by Joan Vinson and Iris Dimmick.