Half of San Antonio’s 10 City Council districts proved competitive enough to send candidates into a runoff, while five current members earned strong enough showings to earn another two-year term.
Councilwomen Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4), Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6), and Ana Sandoval (D7) secured enough votes to avoid runoffs, along with councilmen Manny Pelaez (D8) and Clayton Perry (D10). But vote tallies remain too close in districts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 9 for candidates to avoid facing voters again in June. City Council members must earn at least 50% plus one vote to win the race and avoid a runoff.
Of the five races headed to runoffs, two involve incumbent councilmen, Roberto Treviño (D1) and John Courage (D9), who both came in below the 50% mark.
Courage told the San Antonio Report on Saturday that he “obviously hoped to win without a runoff” but said he feels “confident” about a runoff win.
Treviño (D1) is headed into a runoff against Mario Bravo, a project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. The incumbent, who is seeking his fourth and final two-year term on council, secured 45% of 12,569 votes, with Bravo securing 34%.
The two will face off for the council seat to represent District 1, which encompasses all of downtown and includes neighborhoods such as King William and Southtown as it stretches up to Loop 410.
“We’re going to continue to keep pushing our message of all the work that we’ve done and want to do to continue on to a fourth term,” Treviño told the San Antonio Report as results came in Saturday. “We do feel that it was – with the pandemic – an unusual campaign season, but we feel strongly about our position and will remain optimistic.”
In 2019, Treviño easily won reelection, grabbing almost 60 percent of the vote against a field of eight challengers. Treviño previously faced off in a close race in 2017 when local attorney Michael Montaño took the sitting councilman to tight runoff. In 2018, Bravo unsuccessfully ran in a Democratic primary for county commissioner.
Bravo said Saturday that his campaign is also in a “strong position,” with the race even tighter than the results that sent Treviño into a runoff in 2017.
“We’ve been building momentum as we’ve gotten closer and closer to Election Day,” Bravo said. “This is going to give us a boost, without a doubt.”
Cyndi Dóminguez, a financial retirement coach running for her first elected office, came in third with 13%. Lauro A. Bustamante, Raymond Zavala, Matthew J. Gauna each earned 3% or less.
On the crowded District 2 ballot, high school teacher Jalen McKee-Rodriguez was the top vote-getter, leading incumbent Councilwoman Jada Andrew-Sullivan out of 8,571 votes.
“I feel humbled and grateful,” McKee-Rodriguez said Saturday. “It really shows what District 2 wants and needs, whereas for so long people have been telling people of District 2 what they need.”
Efforts to reach Andrews-Sullivan were not immediately successful Saturday.
Norris Tyrone Darden followed in third with 14%. The other nine District 2 candidates garnered less than 10%.
District 2, which includes the city’s East Side, has had five representatives on City Council over the past seven years. Two of them were appointed for months-long, interim stints. Another two resigned for other offices – including Ivy Taylor, who became the first Black woman elected mayor in San Antonio.
The packed field of candidates for this seat representing the heart of the South Side will head to a run-off.
In a field of 12 candidates, Phyllis Viagran was the closest to a front-runner at 22%. Viagran, a community outreach coordinator, was trailed by Tomas Uresti at 15% and Marcello Martinez at 12%.
District 3 is the largest of the districts, and the top two candidates had the advantage of family name recognition with voters. Viagran’s sister is the District 3 incumbent. Uresti, a former State Representative, is also the brother of former State Sen. Carlos Uresti, as well as Bexar County’s tax-assessor collector, Albert Uresti.
Viagran and Uresti could not be contacted in time for publication Saturday night.
The City’s response to the COVID-19 crisis is what Rocha Garcia believes cemented her significant lead in the early voting totals.
“Making sure that we got vaccines to the south and the west side of town, which needed it a lot,” she said from her election night watch party at Trader’s Hall.
Rocha Garcia grabbed 70% of 6,762 total votes. David Tristán tailed with 11%, followed by Raymond Guzman with 10% and Curtis Mueller with 9%.
Rocha Garcia said a primary focus of her next term will be economic development, including a tech-focused innovation center at Port San Antonio, the Texas A&M University-San Antonio corridor, and Lackland Air Force Base. She said she’d also like to promote the health of district residents.
“We would love to build up the trails in our area and made sure that our people have access to good quality of life,” she said.
District 5 will go to a runoff, with Teri Castillo taking 31% of the vote to lead 10 other candidates for the open seat. She’ll face Rudy Lopez, who garnered 15% of the vote.
Castillo attended a crowded watch party on the outdoor patio of JJ’s Tavern, not far from Alazán Apache Apartments. “We’re hearing what people want, and it’s us in office,” she said. “These are the people who have not had their needs met in generations.”
District 5 covers the near West Side, including some of San Antonio’s poorest neighborhoods. Castillo, an educator and substitute teacher in the San Antonio Independent School District, has called her campaign one of “social and economic justice.” Her campaign was endorsed by Bernie Sanders.
Lopez, a retired city employee and former neighborhood association leader, could not be reached Saturday night. He has campaigned on protecting homeowners from rising living costs.
Candidates are running for the seat held by outgoing Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, who finished her fourth and final term this year.
Incumbent Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda will retain her District 6 seat, with 55% of 12,425 votes.
Her closest challenger, Irina Rudolph, a vocal opponent of police reform measure Proposition B, received 28%, with three other candidates garnering under 7%.
From her election night watch party at Taco Jalisco, Havrda said, “Public safety is still a really big issue no matter what happens with Prop B. I’ve got to listen to the people and I’ve got to protect our community, all of us, police officers and citizens alike.”
She called her early vote total “a really good vote of confidence” and said she was grateful to see “neighborhood leaders from all over my district” at her watch party, “from near Alamo Ranch, from Edgewood, from Great Northwest.”
Cabello Havrda, first elected in 2019, called District 6 “the fastest growing district in the city” and said her priorities would be incentives for new construction, reduced response times for first responders, and creating walkable neighborhoods.
Voters in the northern Westside territory of District 7 handed incumbent Councilwoman Ana Sandoval a solid win with nearly 71%. Challenger Patrica Ann Varela received 29%.
Sandoval credited her team’s engagement with the community, communicating frequently with constituents through multiple channels to report progress and hear their concerns. She pointed to projects in the northern part of her district, focused particularly on Bandera Road, as helping her garner support. Drainage issues would continue to be a primary focus for her upcoming term, she said, citing the election day storm as highlighting the issue.
Watching the polls at her campaign headquarters near Loop 410 and Babcock Road, Sandoval said, “I’m really grateful for what looks to be a good vote of confidence from the voters. It’s not anything I take lightly.”
Two-term incumbent Pelaez sailed to victory, holding a sizable early vote gap over his four challengers. Businessman and San Antonio Planning Commission member Rob Rodriguez placed distant second.
Pelaez, a labor lawyer and arbitrator first elected in 2017 who is known for his quips on the council dais, secured 59% of the 17,504 votes cast in the fast-growing Northwest Side district that hugs the Interstate 10 corridor. Rodriguez earned 21% of the early vote.
Courage, a two-term councilman, is headed to a runoff with repeat challenger Patrick Von Dohlen. Voters cast 25,148 votes in the Northside district.
Courage has run on a reputation for constituent services, based on a central pitch that there is no “conservative or liberal way of filling a pothole.” District 9 has historically given the Council some of its most conservative voices.
“I’ve worked hard in the district,” Courage said. “I think I’ve got a lot of support, but I recognize that one of my opponents has run before and has a built-up level of support. And another opponent who entered this race ran a vigorous campaign and spent a lot of money, and I think all of those contributed to them getting a significant part of today’s vote.”
Courage has previously run as a Democrat for U.S. Congress and the state Senate. Von Dohlen has run against him in the past two elections as a firebrand social conservative.
“We expected to possibly be on a trajectory to win tonight,” Von Dohlen said, but added that “we have an opportunity to unite the conservatives in District 9.”
“John likes to say there’s not a difference between a Republican and Democrat or liberal and conservative in the way to fix a pothole,” he said of Courage. “Well, I disagree with that. There’s a more efficient way to fix a pothole and we have to make government run as efficient as possible.”
In this suburban Northeast Side district, two-term councilman Perry secured a third term against four challengers. Ezra Johnson, a progressive known for his service on the VIA Metropolitan Transit board who lost to Perry in 2017, had spent four years preparing for a rematch.
Perry got 54% while Johnson was a distant second with 29% of 19,674 total votes.
“I got a lot of broad-based support throughout the district, and I think that’s showing,” Perry said from his watch party with supporters at the Barn Door Restaurant after early results came in. “It was an affirmation when I got reelected in 2019, but this is a reaffirmation here in 2021.”
Johnson conceded the race to Perry in a phone call before 10:30 p.m. Saturday, according to a Facebook post. He referenced the potential effect on the race of Proposition B, the police reform measure he and Perry both opposed, but for different reasons.
“We ran a great campaign,” Johnson told the San Antonio Report earlier in the night. “We did everything that I think a candidate can do, especially a challenger, can do. … But ultimately it’s possible that kind of all got drowned out in the discussion about Prop B.”
The remaining challengers each earned well under 10% of early votes. Emily Norwood, who ran on her participation in a petition drive targeting CPS Energy, was running in third with 7% of early votes.
The remaining challengers, Emily Norwood, Gabrien Gregory, and Alex Svehla, each earned 8% or under.
Jackie Wang, Waylon Cunningham, Bria Woods, Lindsey Carnett, and Nicholas Frank contributed to this article.