Under the city’s newly drawn maps, all but one of San Antonio’s City Council districts favored Democrat Beto O’Rourke for governor this year by wide margins, according to data provided by the progressive political firm Flagship Campaigns.
Council District 9, currently represented by John Courage, is the only district that supported Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who ultimately defeated O’Rourke by roughly 11 percentage points.
Courage, who has previously run for office as a Democrat, plans to seek reelection for a fourth and final term. Members of the City Council are up for reelection May 6. Filing opens Jan. 18 and closes Feb. 17.
Council races are nonpartisan, and the turnout drops dramatically from gubernatorial elections, so the November midterm results can only tell us so much.
But the upcoming municipal election will be the first to use new council maps approved earlier this year, after the city had to redistribute residents following the results of the 2020 census. The partisan breakdown from the midterms offers a first look at what type of candidates might be successful in the newly drawn districts.
Overall, data from Flagship Campaigns showed little change in the partisan makeup of the districts since the last municipal elections, which placed a class of new progressive members on the dais in 2021.
District 5, which gained residents in the redistricting process, gave O’Rourke 80% of its vote, higher support than any other district. It had supported President Joe Biden with roughly 78% of the vote in 2020.
That district is currently represented by housing organizer Teri Castillo (D5), who was part of the progressive wave elected in 2021 and intends to seek reelection.
District 1, which will continue to encompass much of downtown after 11th-hour lobbying from the business community, favored O’Rourke with roughly 73% of its vote.
It’s currently represented by Mario Bravo, a climate activist who was elected in 2021. Bravo has said he plans to seek reelection, though several other candidates have announced plans to run in the district as well. Bravo’s colleagues issued him a vote of no confidence in November for berating one of his council colleagues before a budget vote earlier this year.
San Antonio elected just one self-identified conservative in 2021, Clayton Perry (D10), who is currently on a sabbatical after admitting to a hit-and-run car accident last month.
District 10 has long sent conservatives to the City Council, even as it supported Democrats for higher office. O’Rourke carried it with roughly 54% in November, and Biden with 53% in 2020.
That’s because “comparing the general and municipal elections, the partisanship is drastically different,” said Bert Santibañez, a San Antonio political strategist and the owner of Flagship Campaigns.
Santibañez said the dropoff between general elections and municipal elections is typically steeper in districts with a higher concentration of Democratic voters than in those with more Republican voters. In a municipal election, four of the 10 council districts — districts 7, 8, 9 and 10 — typically account for an average of 58% of the vote, he said.
Those four districts also gave O’Rourke some of his lowest support among the council districts in November. District 9 gave him 48% of its vote and District 10 gave him 54% — compared to the 62% O’Rourke took citywide.
Last week Council unanimously chose another candidate with conservative credentials, former District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher, to serve in District 10 until Perry returns.
Gallagher said he won’t run to hold the seat in May, but 17 candidates from across the political spectrum signed up to be considered for the appointment, and leaders from both parties are eyeing potential candidates for that race.
“There is always an opportunity for change, and that may not be during the interim appointment but during an election,” Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) told Pauline Rubio, a former Democratic precinct chair who interviewed for the District 10 appointment at Thursday’s meeting.
Republican Party of Bexar County Chair Jeff McManus said he’s also been meeting with City Council hopefuls and plans to form a panel to interview them.
“We will be supporting and endorsing candidates in a nonpartisan way, as long as they stand aligned with our constitutional rights, and at least 80% of the Republican Party [of Texas] platform,” McManus said.
“I’ve not come across any candidates for mayor yet,” McManus said.