Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales is facing challenger Anthony Gres who has raised four times the money for the council seat.
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) is facing challenger Anthony Gres, who has spent more than four times the money Gonzales has on the council race. Credit: Composite / San Antonio Report (left) - Courtesy

In her bid to serve out the maximum eight years on Council, Shirley Gonzales will need to fend off an opponent who has outspent her by more than 4 to 1.

Business owner Anthony Gres, 45, has spent more than $42,000 in his effort to win the District 5 Council seat. It’s the first run for public office for Gres, who owns a fruit and vegetable processing and distribution company called A&A Concepts.

His maiden political campaign has been entirely self-funded. According to a campaign finance report filed with the City of San Antonio, Gres took out a $45,000 loan to bankroll his advertising and consulting fund.

“I’ve used a lot of my own money and pulled out a loan,” he said. “The reason I’ve done this is because I’m serious about this race, I’m serious about this community, I’m serious about needing a change, and I’m serious about helping the residents of this community.”

By comparison, Gonzales has spent about $9,000 and has raised slightly less than that amount in seeking her fourth and final term.

Jilma Davila

Her other challengers include former San Antonio River Authority board member Nazarite Ruben F. Perez, 76, and Boys and Girls Club facilitator Jilma “Jill” Davila, 43. Neither has filed a campaign finance report with the City, according to the online electronic filing system. Perez did not respond to multiple interview requests.

Despite being outspent in the race, Gonzales is confident in her ability to secure another two years representing San Antonio’s poor and largely Latino West Side.

“Experience counts for a lot,” she said. “I look forward to using that tenure to help my district as much as I can.”

The 46-year-old councilwoman owns Bill’s Pawn and Jewelry on West Commerce Street.

She counts authoring the City’s equity budget legislation, which aims to disperse municipal funds throughout the City equitably and not necessarily equally, among her greatest achievements so far in the District 5 seat. Now, she hopes to build on the infrastructure improvements – such as for streets, drainage, and sidewalks – funded through the budget if she is re-elected.

“This is the first time we have had equity in our budget,” she said. “As a result we are seeing lots of improvement in our neighborhoods.”

Improving quality of life in District 5 will take grassroots mobilization to connect residents to government resources, said Davila, who said she came to the decision to run for Council through prayerful meditation.

“My heart was speaking to me, so I said I’m running for City Council,” she said. “It happened within a couple of days.”

The Rodriguez Elementary School Boys and Girls Club facilitator said she will look to “stir up change” if she is elected to the District 5 Council seat. As a member of the community who has experienced poverty, hunger, and the impact of incarceration in her household, she said she shares the life experiences of many of her fellow Westside inhabitants.

“I have a master’s from the school of hard knocks. I’ve been through the eviction process. I’ve experienced hunger. I’ve experienced loss – true loss,” Davila said, adding that her character to battle through those personal challenges is what sets her apart from her opponents. “I’m a warrior.”

Gres, whose own brother Michael was killed 10 years ago while jogging near the University of the Incarnate Word campus, lamented the increasing number of accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists. He said District 5 needs serious investment in infrastructure, including streetlights, speed humps, and other traffic-calming measures.

“We need to reinvest the money,” Gres said. “The current councilwoman keeps saying she’s secured $200,000 for infrastructure improvements. Then where’s the money at?”

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is a columnist at the San Antonio Report. A former reporter and editor at the SA Report, he currently works as a project manager for New York City-based Advance Local.