With all of election day votes tallied Saturday night, Mayor Ron Nirenberg secured a third term as he claimed 62% of the vote. Former District 6 councilman Greg Brockhouse – who failed to capture the same support he had in 2019, when he took Nirenberg to a runoff – trailed with 31.5%.
Avoiding a runoff “is what we were planning for and working toward, and I’m glad to see that taking shape,” Nirenberg said Saturday after early voting results came in.
Only two of the other 12 candidates in the race gained more than 1% of the vote in an election that drew a higher turnout than is typical for city elections. Though just 17%, the turnout was likely driven by a contentious ballot proposition on police union bargaining rights, Proposition B, which appeared headed to defeat.
With the mayoral race’s outcome apparent relatively early in the evening, Brockhouse conceded, offering the mayor his congratulations.
“We have been blessed to serve our City and we are thankful for our family, our friends and every supporter who helped us and voted for us along the way,” Brockhouse said via text message. “I have always said you don’t need to be mayor to make a change in your community. You only have to care. We have cared and gave it our best shot.
“Congratulations to Ron and Erika as they continue their service to San Antonio. My family wishes them the best of luck. Their success is all of our success. We are blessed and I can head home with my head held high and get back to a full-time life with my wife and children. It has been an honor to serve and run for office!”
At his mortgage office building on the Northwest Side of San Antonio Saturday evening, Brockhouse thanked cheering supporters for their time and votes.
“We can analyze all the data … and we can try to come up with a whole list of issues, but at the end of the day, the people have chosen,” Brockhouse said. “That’s the best thing we can ask for, is a scoreboard like that.”
He pointed to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as one of the major roadblocks to his campaign this time around, which he said resulted in fewer campaign donations.
Ahead of election day, San Antonio voters mostly appeared to support Nirenberg, with 53% of people surveyed by the latest Bexar Facts poll saying they would vote for the incumbent and 3% saying they were leaning toward voting for him.
Through the last days leading up to the election, Nirenberg continued to add to his campaign war chest and raised $218,614 between March 23 and April 21, according to his latest campaign finance report. He also spent $360,046. In that same time period, Brockhouse only raised $13,770 and spent $65,369.
Nirenberg’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic seemed to have boosted his approval ratings; in February 2020, 56% of those surveyed by Bexar Facts said they approved of Nirenberg’s job performance. That rose sharply to 74% in April 2020 and settled to 67% in March. The percentage of people who strongly approved of his job performance also rose significantly, from 24% in February 2020 to 45% in March 2021.
The top item on Nirenberg’s agenda going into a presumptive third term is to “put this pandemic behind us,” Nirenberg told the San Antonio Report.
“We’re getting very close in terms of the vaccination process, but we have to make sure that we can come out of this pandemic,” he said.
Nirenberg also chose to stay out of political debates against opponents, including repeat challenger Brockhouse, who narrowly lost in 2019. His campaign manager and chair told the San Antonio Report in February that Nirenberg was preoccupied with his duties as mayor.
“What would be the reason to do a debate? … The mayor is the head of the city, managing a COVID crisis,” Gilberto Ocañas said then. “We’re working on economic recovery. We are focused on that.”
Brockhouse criticized Nirenberg’s decision not to have face-to-face debates with his opponents.
“It is pretty clear that Ron Nirenberg does not want to defend his record,” Brockhouse said in a news release from March. “Voters deserve to hear directly from the candidates for mayor.”
Instead of debates, Brockhouse, Nirenberg, and former District 2 candidate Denise Gutierrez-Homer participated in mayoral forums hosted by KSAT 12, Bexar Facts, and San Antonio Report in April. During his forum, Brockhouse reiterated his stance against Proposition B, which would eliminate the police union’s current collective bargaining process with the City. He added that that did not mean police officers should not be held accountable.
“Unequivocally, we must fire bad police officers,” he said. “Nobody wants a bad cop gone more than a good cop. … I think you can be pro-police and pro-Black Lives Matter.”
Nirenberg has kept his opinion on the matter to himself, declining to take a position because City Council has to vote on the police union’s labor contract.
“The City Council is the one that directs the negotiating team on the priorities that are articulated by the public,” Nirenberg said in April. “The City Council will ultimately have to vote for or against this contract. So if we’re going to engage the negotiating table in good faith, we have to make sure that we are doing that without also undercutting the ability for that process to unfold fairly.”