With the news that Councilwoman Ana Sandoval was stepping down from City Council, two District 7 candidates were among the first to submit their names for the open seat Wednesday, the first day for candidates to file for the May 6 municipal elections.

Almost every other race is expected to feature an incumbent on the ballot.

Some of those current officeholders, including Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6) and Mario Bravo (D1), have raised serious cash in the past six months that could help keep opponents at bay, according to campaign finance reports filed this week.

Other incumbents with less money on hand, including council members Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) and Teri Castillo (D5), were among the first to file for reelection when the application period opened Wednesday.

Fourteen ballot applications were completed Wednesday, according to the city clerk. Potential candidates have until 5 p.m. on Feb. 17 to file to run for City Council or mayor.

Here’s a look at what the incumbents are doing to prepare for reelection and which races are drawing the most interest from potential candidates.

Mayor

Ron Nirenberg, elected in 2017, intends to run for a fourth and final term as mayor. He was in Washington, D.C., when filing opened Wednesday, according to campaign manager James Aldrete, but plans to file for reelection later this week.

Nirenberg reported roughly $330,000 on hand as of Jan. 15. He raised about $270,000 in the past six months.

“This report shows broad consensus from community leaders across the board that San Antonio is on the right track,” Nirenberg said in statement.

His reelection race will be run by Aldrete’s firm MAP Political Communication, which worked on Nirenberg’s past races and on the city’s 2022 bond campaign.

So far Nirenberg has yet to draw any high-profile challengers.

Christopher Longoria and Ray Basaldua filed to run Wednesday, each noting their long odds against the incumbent. Longoria sought the temporary appointment to replace Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) during his leave of absence, and said he was concerned that the city wasn’t taking crime seriously.

Basaldua ran for mayor in 2021 and finished eighth in a field of 14 candidates. He filed a campaign finance report showing no money raised or spent.

District 1

Bravo plans to seek a second term. Council members hit him with a vote of no confidence and he was temporarily stripped of his committee assignments after an investigation found he berated Sandoval over a budget amendment last year.

The incident doesn’t appear to have hurt Bravo’s ability to raise money.

He reported roughly $63,000 on hand for his reelection race, much of which came in over the past six weeks. Bravo also recently hired Toni-Marie Van Buren, a former senior vice president of United Way of San Antonio and a past president of the Monte Vista Neighborhood Association, to serve as his campaign manager.

His challengers include:

  • Jeremy Roberts, a digital marketing executive who chaired the city’s Small Business Advisory Commission. He announced plans to run in December.
  • Ernest Salinas, the president of the Dellview Area Neighborhood Association who told the San Antonio Report he plans to file his paperwork to run Monday.
  • Education consultant Sukh Kaur, who launched her campaign in October and had raised roughly $41,000 as of Jan. 15, including a $500 contribution from San Antonio developer Kit Goldsbury. Kaur also loaned her campaign $9,100.

District 2

Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez defeated his former boss, incumbent Jada Andrews-Sullivan, to win the seat in 2021. He filed to run for a second term Wednesday.

“When I originally filed for office two years ago, I was a high school math teacher and I was asking for people’s trust,” McKee-Rodriguez said. “…Since then we’ve set records in terms of [Council Consideration Requests] submitted, we’ve made a lot of budgeting adjustments and really challenged the way that the system works.”

McKee-Rodriguez reported roughly $15,000 in his campaign account as of Jan. 15, including a $500 contribution from the campaign of former congressional candidate Jessica Cisneros, who mounted two unsuccessful primary challenges to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar.

Retired communications professional Carla Walker filed to challenge McKee-Rodriguez, citing her frustration with his priorities on the council.

“We have a council person that has a hidden agenda, or other things that are important to them, and not things that are important to us in District 2,” said Walker, who cited the near loss of Brackenridge Park into another council district as an example. “There’s just been some things that have been going on that are very upsetting and disappointing.”

District 2 candidate Carla Walker takes an oath after declaring her candidacy for her district.
Carla Walker takes an oath after declaring her candidacy for the District 2 council seat. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Walker reported raising roughly $6,800 for the race as of Jan. 15.

The Rev. Patrick Jones, a supporter of McKee-Rodriguez’s predecessor, filed a campaign finance report saying he had raised $2,200 for a District 2 campaign. He also loaned his campaign $5,000, the same amount he paid the progressive firm Flagship Campaigns for political work. 

District 3

Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran was elected to succeed her term-limited sister, Rebecca Viagran, in 2021. She said Wednesday that she plans to file to run for a second term in the coming weeks. Viagran reported roughly $26,000 on hand for her reelection as of Jan. 15.

“In the first race we were trying to make sure everybody had their vaccines and everybody was had the opportunity to look for work,” Viagran said.

“I think in this race we are going to have to address the fact that we’ve come out of this pandemic and it’s a little more there’s a little more uncertainty with our public safety,” she added.

District 4

Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia was elected in 2019. She plans to file to run for a third term Thursday, according to a campaign aide.

She reported roughly $30,000 on hand as of Jan. 15 and raised $8,700 in the past six months.

District 5

Councilwoman Teri Castillo filed to run for a second term Wednesday.

“Last round I did my block walking relying on public transportation,” said Castillo, who was a housing organizer before running for council. “I now have my [driver’s] license to get to and from all over the district.”

Castillo reported roughly $18,000 on hand for her reelection as of Jan. 15.

District 6

Cabello Havrda was elected in 2019 and filed to run for a third term Wednesday.

“We have a lot of things in the hopper that we will continue to work on … a lot of new initiatives,” Cabello Havrda said after filing. “… The more tenure you get on council, the more you’re able to get things done.”

Cabello Havrda, who is often mentioned as a future mayoral candidate, reported roughly $98,000 in her campaign account as of Jan. 15. She raised $44,000 in the past six months.

She will be challenged by Irina Rudolph, who ran for City Council in 2021, finishing second with roughly 28% of the vote, and filed to run again Wednesday.

“The first time I ran it was kind of spur of the moment, I just woke up and I decided to run — no help, no money,” said Rudolph. “This time, I am prepared.”

Rudolph, who lives in Westover Hills, reported roughly $900 in her campaign account as of Jan. 15.

District 7

Sandoval, elected in 2017, announced plans on Tuesday to step down from her role at the end of the month. The City Council will choose a candidate to finish the last months of her term. 

Sandoval said she’s urged colleagues to appoint someone who won’t run to hold the seat in May. The application process for the appointment hadn’t opened when filing began Wednesday.

The open seat drew immediate interest. Dan Rossiter, president of the Thunderbird Hills Neighborhood Association, was the first candidate to file on Wednesday morning.

Rossiter is a computer scientist who works on transportation projects at Southwest Research Institute. He also serves on the board of directors at Brooks.

Also filing to run was Marina Alderete Gavito, executive director of the nonprofit SA Digital Connects. Gavito has worked at USAA, Tech Bloc and Rackspace. She recently joined the board of the San Antonio Report but resigned her position in order to become a council candidate.

“I feel like I have great corporate experience, great community experience, and so I’m just bringing that to the table and letting residents decide,” said Gavito.

Marina Gabito, CEO of SA Digital Connects addresses members of the media outside of City Hall after declaring to represent District 7.
Marina Gavito, CEO of SA Digital Connects, addresses members of the media outside City Hall after declaring her candidacy for the District 7 seat. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

District 8

Councilman Manny Pelaez plans to seek a fourth and final term. He has roughly $64,000 on hand for his reelection race, according to a campaign aide.

District 9

Councilman John Courage filed to run for a fourth and final term Wednesday. Courage, who has run for office in the past as a Democrat, represents the only council district that supported Gov. Greg Abbott over Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the November midterm election.

“A lot of people didn’t know me the first time I ran, so you know, the conservatives in our district may have assumed that I was conservative,” Courage said in an interview at a campaign launch party in December. “Over time, they’ve learned more that I’m not necessarily conservative, but I’m not, you know, a wide-eyed liberal either.”

He reported roughly $52,000 on hand as of Jan. 15 and raised about $25,000 in the past six months.

Courage’s challengers include Jarrett Lipman, the former band director at Johnson High School who launched his campaign last week with a fundraiser at Max & Louie’s New York Diner. Lipman recently completed a masters of public administration and urban planning programming at UTSA and his campaign kickoff was promoted by the Republican Party of Bexar County.

“When the incumbent first ran, he ran on a platform of being everybody’s neighbor,” Lipman said in an interview. “I think that the incumbent has not delivered on a lot of the promises that he made when he ran, in terms of improving the parks, improving infrastructure.”

Conservative activist Patrick Von Dohlen filed a campaign finance report listing $9,000 on hand for a District 9 race, but said Wednesday via text message he was “keeping my options open” for a possible run. He unsuccessfully sought the council seat in 2017, 2019 and 2021.

District 10

Perry was first elected in 2017. He hasn’t said whether he plans to seek a fourth and final term, though a group of former District 10 representatives have urged against it.

Perry is the council’s lone conservative and took a leave of absence after he was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run car accident in November. Like-minded candidates say they’re waiting on Perry before making a decision on the race.

Perry reported roughly $62,000 in his campaign account as of Jan. 15 but raised only $1,500 in the past six months.

Disclosure: San Antonio Report board Chairman A.J. Rodriguez is the campaign treasurer for District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia.

This article has been updated to clarify that Patrick Von Dohlen has run for the District 9 council seat three times.

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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.