San Antonio city council candidates strive to increase turnout ahead of second round
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For Teri Castillo, knocking on doors for her second-round city council campaign just got a lot easier.
The 29-year-old candidate grew up in District 5, where she and her opponent Rudy Lopez advanced to the June 5 second round out of a field of 11 candidates earlier this month. The two are running for the seat which will be vacated next month by councilor Shirley Gonzales, serving four terms.
For most of her campaign, Castillo took the bus to the neighborhoods where she was door-to-door. But a few weeks ago she got her driver’s license.
“I did the entire previous ground game using public transport,” Castillo said. “And during the early voting, I got my license. So the only difference in strategy is that I won’t have to wait 15 minutes for the bus. “
Candidates in the second round
Roberto Treviño *
Jada Andrews-Sullivan *
Jean Courage *
Patrick von dohlen
Castillo is one of 10 local candidates – in City Council Districts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 9 – who are scrambling to consolidate their support and get their constituents to the polls. Early voting begins Monday.
Candidates must win a majority of votes – 50% plus one vote – to win a council race. This was the case in six of the May 1 contests, including the city-wide race which saw Mayor Ron Nirenberg beat second challenger Greg Brockhouse. Now, second-round candidates must push to increase turnout even without the mayor’s race or the controversial B-bill, a controversial measure of police accountability, on the ballot.
In runoffs like these, every door knocked can make a difference, according to Henry Flores, professor emeritus of political science at St. Mary’s University. Candidates should strive to persuade frequent voters who vote in each election, but engaging new or infrequent voters is essential.
“When you go to a city council district election, it’s usually the people who know you in the district,” Flores said. “They are going to be friends and neighbors in areas that you are well known and where you have been very active. They will be the ones who will go to the polls. “
Shoe leather is essential in most districts
Castillo is a member of the Local Democratic Socialists of America and supported by the Texas Organizing Project (TOP). She has a strong social media presence and nationwide endorsements from former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Houston rapper and activist Bun B.
But in an interview this week, Castillo told the San Antonio Report that she would much rather knock on the door than post online.
“It’s very important to have these one-on-one conversations with residents,” Castillo said. “And I would much rather be at the gates than in a digital space.”
Lopez appears to be consolidating his support in the district. Shortly before the May 1 elections, he obtained the endorsement of Gonzales, followed more recently by State Representative Ina Minjarez, and the San Antonio Express-News.
Like his opponent, Lopez emphasizes his approach to the field of the campaign and his deep ties to the District.
“Walking the various streets of the West Side or the South Side, talking to Miss Salazar who lives near Lubbock Street and has no sidewalks, does TOP know?” Lopez said. “And I hate to say it, but does Bernie Sanders know about it?”
Lopez garnered about half of the votes Castillo secured in the crowded May 1 election – 15% to 31%.
“It also means she didn’t get 70% of the vote,” Lopez said. “It means finding out what the problems were for the people who did not vote for Teri. I think a lot of them probably felt the same as me. I don’t think there was a huge difference between me and the other nine candidates.
Von Dohlen gets GOP help in District 9
District 5 is not the only race where national politics play a role in the momentum of candidates. In District 9, two-term John Courage is battling a third challenge from Patrick Von Dohlen, a conservative brandon who receives a big boost from local Republicans in terms of volunteering and fundraising.
City council races are non-partisan. But for Bexar County Republican Party volunteer Mimi Planas, Von Dohlen represents “a perfect opportunity to elect another conservative-principle candidate for city council,” where nine out of 10 members tend to lean to the left.
“That’s why you see us keep pushing and pushing, you know, to bring in volunteers just to get the word out that there is a run-off election,” Planas said. “And so, it’s all about getting on the boat, you know, volunteers banging, walking, calling, donating – all the while doing our best to get the word out.”
Flores, the retired St. Mary’s professor who has spent decades studying and observing San Antonio politics, thinks “District 9 could go both ways, really. Von Dohlen is appealing to supporters of former President Donald Trump, especially in the northeastern district, he said.
But “Von Dohlen might just be the opponent Courage needs to get people out of Courage because Von Dohlen scares progressives,” Flores said.
District 1 candidates compete
In District 1, one of the most publicized races of this cycle, Roberto Treviño, holder of three terms, is facing environmental activist Mario Bravo. Trevino won 45% in the second round, with Bravo getting 34%.
For Bravo, focusing on likely voters required hiring a local campaign expert, Bert Santibañez, who helped propel Nirenberg’s victory in May.
“His trick is targeting likely voters,” Bravo said of Santibañez, including “analyzing field data and predicting who is most likely to run” down to the constituency level, a- he declared.
Trevino’s campaign also hired another former Nirenberg staffer, Ryan Garcia, who parted ways with the campaign in mid-April.
“I’m going to knock on doors, meet people,” Treviño said. “I am in front of many rooms, forums. Nothing is too big, nothing is too small, and I just go wherever I can be.
Last week, the candidates took part in a flurry of debates and forums: Texas Public Radio’s The Source on Monday, a Lavaca Neighborhood Association event on Tuesday, and Wednesday, a debate at The Cove sponsored by NowCastSA and other local media. Candidates hosted another event sponsored by the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
District 1 is one of the races that Flores has followed closely this lap. He thinks Treviño is losing momentum. This could be due to recent issues with leaders of neighborhood associations, including in Dellview, where Treviño has been criticized for letting homeless people camp in the parking lot of his field office.
“Maybe he gave up on the spirit or something,” Flores said of Treviño. “It’s almost like he wants to lose this election.”
But at The Cove on Wednesday, Treviño’s most passionate moment came when he was asked about homelessness. The event was livened up for a second round forum in San Antonio, with supporters yelling and clapping as their favorite candidate pointed out their talking points and won hits in the arguments. Treviño’s supporters applauded when he defended his actions.
“I can’t stand anyone who tries to say, ‘You know what, let’s separate the neighborhoods from the homeless,’ Treviño said. “Homelessness is not a crime.”