Apr 26, 2023 - Politics

San Antonio City Council election: What to watch

Photo illustration of the San Antonio city hall with lines radiating from it.

Photo Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photo: Courtesy of the City of San Antonio

San Antonio voters have begun casting their ballots in a pivotal local election.

Why it matters: The May 6 election will determine the political bent of the City Council and its priorities. While the nonpartisan council members handle everyday issues like fixing potholes, they also weigh in on things like climate action, affordable housing and small business assistance.

  • And they decide how to spend more than $3 billion of our money.

The big picture: All 10 City Council seats are up for election, as well as the mayor.

  • Eight council members and Mayor Ron Nirenberg are seeking re-election. Many appear well positioned to secure another term, with most challengers lagging far behind in fundraising.

Between the lines: The next City Council is likely to be less progressive. Before District 7 Councilmember Ana Sandoval resigned in January, she often joined Councilmembers Mario Bravo, Jalen McKee-Rodriguez and Teri Castillo in forming a progressive bloc. But District 7 candidates aren't quite as progressive as Sandoval.

By the numbers: More than 9,300 people voted early Monday, per Bexar County — some 2,300 more votes cast than on the first day of early voting in the May 2021 election.

  • Early voting continues through May 2.

What we're watching: Who captures Northwest Side District 7 and Northeast Side District 10, with no incumbent in either race. District 10's Clayton Perry is not seeking another term. He recently received probation in his drunken driving and hit-and-run cases.

  • We're also watching whether first-term progressives Bravo and McKee-Rodriguez can win in their crowded District 1 and District 2 races, respectively.

State of play: Nirenberg appears poised to win a fourth and final term. He is facing eight challengers, but none have raised enough money to seriously take him on.

Details: In Districts 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8, incumbents are also in safe positions against challengers who haven't raised as much money.

  • District 3 Councilmember Phyllis Viagran faces three challengers — Jayden Muñoz, Erin Gallegos Reid and Larry La Rose. Viagran had nearly $24,000 on hand as of last report.
  • District 4 Councilmember Adriana Rocha Garcia faces a single challenger, Gregorio De La Paz. Rocha Garcia had nearly $39,000 on hand as of last report.
  • District 5 Councilmember Castillo faces two challengers, Arturo Espinosa and Rudy Lopez. Castillo had more than $20,000 on hand as of last report.
  • District 6 Councilmember Melissa Cabello Havrda faces two challengers, Irina Rudolph and Chris Baecker. Cabello Havrda had more than $76,000 on hand at last report.
  • District 8 Councilmember Manny Pelaez faces challenger Cesario Garcia. Pelaez had more than $74,000 on hand at last report.

The intrigue: Longtime District 9 Councilmember John Courage, a Democrat, faces a challenge from conservative Jarrett Lipman in one of the few conservative-leaning City Council districts. Courage has held the seat for three terms by placing a strong emphasis on constituent services. He had nearly $36,000 on hand at last report. Lipman raised more than $23,000.

  • David Allan Lara and Dominque Liu are also on the North Side District 9 ballot.

What's next: The next round of campaign finance reports is due by 5pm Friday.

Zoom out: Proposition A, the sweeping criminal justice reform question on the ballot, could have an impact on City Council races if it boosts turnout among either moderate or progressive voters.

Meanwhile, voters will also have a say in choosing school district trustees across Bexar County. Southwest and Alamo Heights ISDs are also asking voters to approve bonds.


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