As Clayton Perry rejoins City Council with charges of driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident unresolved, friends and allies say they’re worried about his future as an elected official.

Though the District 10 councilman returned to work on Thursday after taking a two-month leave of absence, people close to him say they’re still unsure whether he entered an alcohol rehabilitation program since the Nov. 6 crash.

Perry faces charges of driving while intoxicated and failing to stop and give information, both misdemeanors, in connection with the incident near his home. His first court appearance is set for Jan. 24 but a resolution in the case will likely take longer.

“I want to assure everyone that I kept my commitment I made at the last meeting to follow all the appropriate measures, as recommended by medical experts, and will continue to do so,” Perry said at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

He offered no details and declined questions from reporters after the meeting.

Whether Perry plans to seek reelection is also unclear, as the filing period for candidates begins in less than a week. He’s currently the lone conservative on the City Council, and many of his political allies believe the three-term councilman should clear the way for a new District 10 representative as May council elections approach.

“There’s a general consensus that if he wants to return to work and finish out his term that’s OK, but he needs to be focused on getting better, not running for reelection,” said Carlton Soules, a former District 10 councilman.

Perry did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the San Antonio Report about whether he’d received treatment during his sabbatical or about his reelection plans.

Sources familiar with conversations surrounding Perry’s council seat said a group of former District 10 councilmen, not including Soules, have met with Perry on multiple occasions and urged him not to seek reelection.

Interim Councilman Mike Gallagher, a close friend of Perry’s and former District 10 representative chosen to serve in Perry’s absence, declined to say whether he was a part of those discussions.

“I think that’s a good question for [Perry] to answer,” Gallagher said.

“It’s my personal opinion that he shouldn’t run for reelection, and he’s heard that from me,” said John Clamp, another former District 10 councilman.

Information from the San Antonio Police Department about Perry’s alleged actions before and after the crash have left him politically vulnerable.

An arrest affidavit from the night of the accident stated that Perry consumed 14 alcoholic beverages between 4:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. at Evil Olive Elixir Lounge the night he crashed his Jeep Wrangler into another vehicle and allegedly fled the scene of the accident.

Body camera footage from the police officer who went to Perry’s home later that night showed the councilman lying on the ground in his backyard with a cut on his head, while his vehicle was still running in the driveway.

Goodwill from supporters

Yet political operatives, community leaders and even potential council candidates concede that goodwill toward Perry remains high, particularly among conservatives.

“The thing is with Perry … his supporters are almost rabid about him,” said Jeff McManus, chair of the Republican Party of Bexar County. “I mean, they just love the guy.”

District 10 supported Democrat Beto O’Rourke for governor in the November midterm with roughly 54% of its vote, but it’s the only San Antonio district that’s consistently sent conservative voices to City Council in recent years.

The application process to fill Perry’s seat temporarily attracted many interested applicants, some of whom may end up running for the seat this May.

Applications for city offices can be submitted starting Jan. 18 through Feb. 17, and candidates have already started announcing plans and raising money to run in other districts.

If Perry is convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude,” City Council has the authority to remove him from office. The term is not defined in the city charter, however, and it’s unclear whether council members would pursue that option. After Perry apologized for his involvement in the crash, City Council voted to censure him but stopped short of calling for his resignation.

“As it stands, the choice is up to the member and the voters,” Nirenberg said in a statement Wednesday.

In the meantime, Perry’s chief of staff, Paul Jimenez, accepted a new job working for Bexar County Commissioner Grant Moody in Precinct 3 at the beginning of the year.

San Antonio political consultant Kelton Morgan, who worked on Perry’s previous council campaigns, declined to comment on whether he would work for Perry if he seeks reelection.

‘Waiting game’

Still, like-minded candidates are waiting for a formal decision from Perry.

“He is so loved and supported within that district that if anybody tried to step in and unseat him, they would have a big uphill battle,” McManus said of the councilman.

If Perry doesn’t run for reelection, Republicans are working to line up a potential candidate they think could keep the district in conservative hands.

Council offices are nonpartisan, but McManus said the Republican Party of Bexar County is putting together a questionnaire to help the party field candidates.

Among those interested in the District 10 seat is Marc Whyte, a 42-year-old commercial litigator who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Texas House District 121 in 2018, when then-House Speaker Joe Straus decided not to seek reelection. Whyte’s campaign website is still active from that race, and he recently met with the local Republican Party to discuss the potential City Council opening.

“You’re definitely sort of in a waiting game with Clayton,” said Whyte, who considers Perry a friend and currently serves as the councilman’s delegate to the city’s Zoning Commission.

“I’m just hoping that he’s OK and getting things back together after that incident,” said Whtye. “That’s my primary concern with whatever happened.”

Whyte lives in the Marymont neighborhood and serves on the board of the Northeast Neighborhood Alliance. He said he would make neighborhoods a major focus if he runs and is elected and be an ally for small businesses.

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Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.