Incumbent Ron Nirenberg retained his position as San Antonio’s Mayor after defeating Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) in the runoff election on Saturday.
Brockhouse officially conceded at 9:12 p.m.
With 100 percent of precincts counted, Nirenberg held 51.11 percent of the vote to Brockhouse’s 48.89 percent. Details of all the runoff races can be found on the Rivard Report election results page here.
Nirenberg opened the night with a slight lead in early voting, which tightened as more precincts were counted. The margin was just 1.44 points with 78 percent of the precincts voting before a late surge gave Nirenberg the victory.
“We did it!” Nirenberg said to his supporters and staff The Friendly Spot. “We all had a clear choice over the last month, and I want to thank our community who with record numbers made their choices at the polls. It was a record turnout, and it was a very tight race.”
Brockhouse acknowledged shortly after early voting that closing the margin would be an uphill climb.
“This is a bit of a tougher run, not as many votes out there,” he said.
Several of the votes that helped Brockhouse make the race interesting late came from his home District 6, but in the end, there weren’t enough votes available to close the gap.
His concession call to Nirenberg was short, Brockhouse said.
“Trust me that’s going to be the shortest concession call in the history of concession calls,” Brockhouse said before the final vote count was in. “There’s not a lot that can be repaired there between Ron and I.”
Nirenberg was conciliatory during his victory speech and thanked the Brockhouse family “for the work that they put into the … council but also in this campaign, to lay out a case for an alternative.
“That’s important, that’s how democracy works. You have choices. We have clear differences in this campaign, in this race, differences in the path we want to take as a community, and I offered a vision for equity, for action, for making sure that your mayor’s office represents everyone.
“We can all work together. That was my vision for San Antonio. That was the vision you elected me for in 2017, and that is the vision you elected me for again in 2019.”
This has been one of the most vitriolic elections in recent memory. While municipal elections in San Antonio are technically nonpartisan, the results show a city philosophically divided as voters faced a stark choice between Brockhouse, a first-term Councilman with more conservative views and close ties to public safety unions, and Nirenberg, a first-term mayor with more progressive plans for the city.
Nirenberg faced criticism for so-called “anti-business” decisions and policy priorities, taking longer than expected to roll out major planning initiatives, and being distracted by attacks launched largely by the fire union, such as the three propositions that were on the November ballot. Those referendums were directed at the City Hall establishment, the former city manager, and giving firefighters an advantage in labor contract negotiations.
Brockhouse worked as a political consultant for the police and firefighters union, the latter of which is engaged in contentious labor contract negotiations with the City. Both unions’ political action committees (PACs) have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on his behalf throughout the election. His 90-day Action Plan has been criticized for being heavy on short-term initiatives, many of which are already underway under the current administration.
“San Antonio is a city divided,” Brockhouse said. “51 [to] 49 [percent] is not a good thing for any of us. … There’s no mandate.”
Nirenberg took a different approach and said it’s time for San Antonio to heal after this divisive election.
“It starts today, it starts right now, it starts with a phone call from Councilman Brockhouse, that we begin the process of bringing our communities together,” Nirenberg said. “Political campaigns tend to divide communities anyways, but this has been an especially divisive election and so, the work begins right now and that’s something I take ownership of, and we’ll get to work. This is a community that does well when it does together.”
It’s unclear how allegations of domestic violence against Brockhouse stemming from 2006 and 2009 with an ex-wife and his current wife impacted the results. Brockhouse and his wife denied the latter incident occurred and provided an entirely different account of the 2006 incident than his ex.
Standing on the patio of Viola’s Ventanas during his watch party, Brockhouse was close to tears as he thanked supporters and his family, especially his wife Annalisa, who stood by him for most of the night. He later criticized Nirenberg and the media for using those allegations against him.
“The city needs unity and we’ve got to get past that,” Brockhouse said. “We don’t need to go that dark again. I hope that this never happens again for any family because we went through hell.”
This isn’t how candidates should be treated, he said. “We can’t do this to people.”
Media bias was one of the main factors in the race, he said.
“Frankly I’m running against Ron, the Express-News, and to some extent, Bob Rivard,” he said. “There’s media scrutiny that everybody deserves and then there is media bias. This is media bias.”
Nirenberg refuted the notion of media bias during the election.
“Facts are stubborn things. And record and character matter and they should matter,” Nirenberg said. “Those things need a full airing and that’s exactly what a free press does and I’m glad that they did. In fact, if there’s anything, perhaps there needs to be more accountability brought to those types of issues.”
Brockhouse said he’ll be taking a vacation with his family and does not plan on getting into politics again. He has said that he will likely get back into mortgage lending.
Annalisa said she wasn’t so sure about that.
“Somebody told me today that Greg said he’s done with politics,” she said. “I have an inkling that that might be true. Greg’s heart is a servant’s heart.”
Asked if he will forgive Nirenberg for the negative attacks on his character, Brockhouse said he would at 10:01 p.m. – when 100 percent of the vote was counted.