Carlton Soules / Manuel Medina
Carlton Soules (left) has joined the Manuel Medina (right) campaign. Credit: Courtesy Soules / San Antonio Report File Photo

Bexar County Democratic Chairman Manuel Medina has hired former District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules, a conservative Republican, to help Medina’s bid to become San Antonio’s next mayor.

The two local businessmen were once “friendly adversaries” on the partisan political stage, Soules told the Rivard Report on Thursday, but were both surprised to find they agreed on a number of issues.

When it comes to questioning the Vista Ridge water pipeline, utility rate increases, ethical review policy, salaries of public officials, and the proposed $850 million bond, they’re on the same page. They differ on other issues that typically divide Republicans and Democrats, Soules said without going into specifics, but those issues rarely come up in the day-to-day operations of nonpartisan, city government.

“We’re going to have to just agree to disagree on certain things,” he said, “but most of the issues that come before Council once you get past the rhetoric is infrastructure, it’s utilities, it’s airport – it’s stuff that’s not partisan. That’s the real job.”

Soules is founder and president of campaign consulting and analytics firm Strategic Market Services. He was twice elected to represent District 10 on City Council and resigned in 2013 to run for Bexar County judge. Judge Nelson Wolff earned 52% of the vote to Soules’ 44%.

Medina is running against incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor, Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) and 11 other candidates in the May 6 General Election. The $850 million 2017 bond also will be put before voters on the same date.

Medina reached out to Soules in January to begin work on his campaign and publicly announced the partnership while answering a question Wednesday night at a mayoral debate.

“[Soules and I] will bring independent leadership. Together we represent transparent leadership … [and] an era of local government accountable to the people and for the people,” Medina told the Rivard Report, quoting his own promotional video published on his Facebook page.

Nirenberg has characterized Medina’s campaign tactics and opposition to City Hall and City Manager Sheryl Sculley as “bombastic rhetoric.”

There were three main reasons Medina chose to hire Soules: his expertise in local government, his fiscally conservative positions on Council issues, and his “willingness to find common ground,” Medina said.

“We’re going to bring Democrats and Republicans and Progressives and Tea Partiers together from all across town to challenge the powerful special interests in city hall,” Medina said. “Democrats and Republicans got together to defeat the street car and Democrats and Republicans are going to get together to elect Manuel Medina.”

Taylor won a significant portion of the Northside Republican vote in 2015, and Medina hopes to capture some of that vote with Soules’ help.

“But cost effective government appeals to people across the political spectrum,” Medina said.

He pointed to the recent controversy over the river barge contract as one of many reasons that voters should look to him, a self-described “outsider” when it comes to local politics, for leadership that’s not beholden to “special interests.”

“For business owners, it looks like you need to be politically connected to the mayor” in order to do business with the City, he said.

Taylor and Nirenberg deny any preference on who receives the contract. Taylor has concerns over how the application process was handled and the involvement of former Mayor Phil Hardberger with the front-running applicant. Nirenberg is concerned Taylor interfered on behalf of the runner-up.

Though Medina has never held elected office, Soules’ said he has the decision-making and leadership skills from running three companies in his corner as well as the ability to divorce himself from partisan politics.

“I don’t know what my plumber’s politics are, I just need him to fix the leak under my sink,” Soules said, such is the professional role of the mayor: to set aside politics and get to work for the city.

Medina has been campaigning all over the city, he said, noting that he is self-funding his campaign with a $250,000 loan. He hopes to earn a significant portion of that money back from contributors. Of the 536 contributions to his campaign, which includes a $1,000 donation from his wife, Janet Soto Ayoub, most were a little more than $5. So far, Medina has raised $5,451.48.

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org