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Editor’s note: Since word of announcement broke on Saturday (see our story below), Mayor Ivy Taylor has officially announced that she will be running for mayor. Click here to read Monday’s coverage.
Mayor Ivy Taylor is on the verge of announcing her candidacy for a full term as mayor of San Antonio, multiple sources said Saturday, joining an already highly competitive field of candidates led by former state Rep. Mike Villarreal and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.
One source SAID an announcement could come Wednesday.
Sources supporting both Villarreal and Van de Putte said Saturday they expect Mayor Taylor to join the race this coming week. One source who is a supporter of Mayor Taylor said she began making calls last week to gauge the level of political and financial support for her if she were to run. Raising sufficient funds, as much as $1 million, to mount an aggressive campaign, will be a major challenge with so many donors already committed.
“I am at a conference and out of town. I am still praying and thinking,” Mayor Taylor said in a text message to the Rivard Report Saturday morning. “I will let you know as soon as I have made my decision.”
“I think she is tired of hearing people say she isn’t running or can’t run because other strong candidates already have established well-organized and funded campaigns,” said one officeholder who has not publicly committed to a mayoral candidate. “I can’t say (she) will definitely run, but I believe she is looking for the support she would need to run because in her heart she wants to run and others are urging her to run.”
If Mayor Taylor does run, she would be expected to energize her former District 2 Council base on the city’s Eastside, where many African-American leaders have been urging her to seek a full term ever since she was appointed interim mayor. That base is not enough to make her a credible citywide candidate, but several Republican leaders see her as a more conservative candidate who could carry the three suburban districts that together account for as much voter turnout as the seven inner city districts. For all the focus on revitalizing San Antonio’s urban core, the fastest growing parts of the city remain the suburbs around and outside Loop 1604.
District 10 Councilmember Mike Gallagher, a retired Air Force officer and the former president of the Northeast Neighborhood Alliance, which represents 85 different neighborhoods, is said to be leading the push to convince Mayor Taylor to enter the race now.
Former County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson also is in the race, and some of the same sources said former City Councilmember Elisa Chan (D9) also is on the verge of entering the race. Chan resigned from City Council in 2013 to try to unseat state Sen. Donna Campbell in last year’s Republican primary, a contest in which she and former County Commissioner Mike Novak were soundly defeated. She had said then she was not finished with politics.
Chan could not be reached for comment Saturday, but sources said she and former Councilmember Carlton Soules (D10) have both been considering a run for mayor. Soules resigned his council seat a few months after Chan and ran as the Republican candidate seeking to unseat longtime Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, a race he also lost by a substantial margin.
One Republican donor said he and others would try to dissuade Chan and Soules from running if Mayor Taylor declares her candidacy to give her a stronger chance of winning the conservative vote in the Northside suburban council districts.
Mayor Taylor, the first African-American and second woman to hold the office in San Antonio, serves on an interim basis now following her election by City Council last July. She is serving out the unexpired third term of former Mayor Julián Castro, who resigned in July to join the Obama administration as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Filing deadline for the race is Feb. 27, but conventional wisdom held that she had waited too long run, with Villarreal and then Van de Putte securing most available endorsements and building substantial campaign war chests.
If she does enter the race, Mayor Taylor would be the second candidate to reverse an earlier pledge that she would not seek a full term as mayor. Van De Putte said during her recent run for lieutenant governor that she would not run for mayor. Mayor Taylor told her City Council colleagues she would only hold the post on an interim basis.
She said in a Aug. 5 speech last year, delivered at a North Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at the Weston Riverwalk, that the interim appointment would enable her to make tough decisions because she would not face re-election.
“Because I don’t need to run for office this year I have freedom that elected officials rarely enjoy, the ability to speak my mind,” Taylor told her audience last August. “So let me list a few problems we are facing: education, economic development, transportation, public health and healthcare, urban vitality, charter reform, infrastructure, and water. If I were more of a politician I’d refer to these as challenges or opportunities rather than problems, but problems they are.”
(Read more: Mayor Taylor: Planning for the Next 300 Days.)
Since then, however, Mayor Taylor has not ruled out a run for a full term and has publicly acknowledged considering the possibility. She has initiated several long-term planning processes and appointed a Charter Review Commission. She has told friends and supporters that she has been “thinking and praying” about her decision, and has increasingly sounded to some of them like she is running.
At least three City Council members, Joe Krier (D9), Mike Gallagher (D10) and Rebecca Viagran (D3) have been strong supporters of the mayor during her interim term, but Krier said Saturday that he is remaining neutral in the mayor’s race regardless of who is running.
“I have my own race to run, so I am staying out of it, period,” Krier said, refuting reports to the contrary.
A spokesman for Viagran also said she was not endorsing anyone because she has relationships with Adkisson, a political mentor who assisted in her successful campaign challenge to incumbent Leticia Ozuna in 2013, as well as with Van de Putte. Gallagher did not return a call Saturday.
Former Mayor Henry Cisneros, now Chairman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, said Saturday that Mayor Taylor should not be held to any pledge made before she had the opportunity to spend time on the job.
“As chairman of the San Antonio Chamber I can’t make endorsements, but as chairman I want the city to have the most robust possible discussion about our city’s future and who is best to lead us,” Cisneros said. “I did make Ivy a promise that if she does decide to run I would come out and publicly state that what she said previously should not be a disqualifier. It shouldn’t be held against her. The city deserves a robust election. Voters deserve to choose from among the very best candidates. People like Ivy, she’s worked hard at the job, and she has done a good job in her time in office.
Taylor is in New York attending a mayors conference this weekend. Monday is President’s Day, a federal and state holiday, but not a city holiday. Mayor Taylor, however, is scheduled to be in Austin that day to meet with other Texas mayors, an annual rite started by former Mayor Phil Hardberger.
If she does make an announcement Wednesday, it will come the same day the Charter Review Commission will unanimously recommend that City Council approve a series of amendments to be added to the May 9 ballot, including council pay. The commission is recommending annual Council salaries of $45,722 – the current San Antonio median family income established by the U.S. Census, and an annual salary of $61,725 for the mayor, a sum equal to the median family income plus 35%.
(Read more: Council Pay to Go to Council Vote.)
If Mayor Taylor and/or Chan do enter the race, it will make a second round runoff election all but a certainty. Some think Adkisson’s presence on the ballot already was enough to send the race into a second round. Mayor Taylor likely would attract many of the voters otherwise inclined to vote for Adkisson.
Taylor would give Northside conservative voters who believe former Mayor Castro politicized the non-partisan office an option other than Villarreal and Van de Putte, both of whom served in the Texas Legislature as elected Democrats. On the other hand, she has advocated for property tax increases to grow the City’s General Fund. A proposed property tax increase will not play well in the suburbs.
Chan is far more conservative and would provide another option, although her candidacy would not be taken as seriously as a decision by Mayor Taylor to enter the race. Several Republican donors contacted for this story said Chan should stay on the sidelines if the mayor runs.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Councilmembers Joe Kier and Rebecca Viagran were among those urging Taylor to enter the race for mayor. Krier and a Viagran spokesman said they are remaining neutral in the race.
*Featured/top image: Former District 2 Councilmember Ivy Taylor is sworn in as interim mayor of San Antonio in July 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
This story was originally published on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015.