State Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-Dist. 123) is running for two offices, the one he already holds as an unopposed incumbent in the Texas Legislature, the other the office of mayor in San Antonio. The outcome of the Tuesday, Nov. 4 vote is a sure thing. It’s the Saturday, May 9 vote that has Villarreal’s attention.
He’s expected to resign his state office in the near future to focus on the mayoral campaign. A Twitter message to followers from @mikevillarreal two days ago announced that campaign signs would be ready to go on Monday, which will move his candidacy from the behind-the-scenes meetings stage out into the open.
Three months after announcing his run for mayor, Villarreal is still running alone. That is likely to change after the Nov. 4 general elections, so Villarreal is sending a message now to would-be challengers: He’s used his head start to build a $250,000 war chest, assemble a strong campaign team, launch a Mike for Mayor website, and secure key endorsements.
Nearly one-fifth of that money has come in the last 30 days, according to campaign consultant and public relations agency owner Trish Deberry.
“I’m proud of the fact that my campaign continues to gain momentum, and a great cross-section of San Antonio’s business as well as neighborhood leaders are making the early decision to support me in the Mayor’s race,” said Villarreal. “I’m not taking anything for granted and working hard every day.”
The latest high profile endorsement came Saturday from former state Sen. John Montford and his wife, Debbie Montford. Each is influential in their own right.
John most recently served as a senior executive at AT&T and then General Motors under Ed Whitacre, who served terms as CEO at both companies. Prior to that, John was chancellor of Texas Tech University, and before that a member of the Texas State Senate, and a former chairman of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
Debbie is a member of the board of regents of the Texas Tech University System, president and chair of the board of the Briscoe Western Art Museum, and she serves on the board of the San Antonio Symphony.
“Mike has a 15-year track record of effective leadership in the Texas Legislature, building bridges and championing education for our community,” John Montford said in a prepared statement. “A graduate of Texas A&M and Harvard Universities, with a professional background in finance, he’s prepared to bring San Antonio together to build on our success.”
“Mike understands what it’ll take to preserve what’s truly unique about San Antonio as we grow,” said Debbie Montford. “He’s committed to increasing our quality of life by strengthening and sustaining the arts, and improving access to our beautiful natural areas.”
Villarreal has been named one of the best state legislators numerous times by Texas Monthly over his 15-year career as a state representative. After he is re-elected on Tuesday, he has said he will tender his resignation to the governor, triggering a special election in District 123.
District 1 City Councilmember Diego Bernal is widely regarded as the strongest candidate to succeed Villarreal if he decides to resign from City Council and seek election to the Texas Legislature.
Who will oppose Villarreal in the mayoral race remains to be seen. The most closely-watched person on the short list is Mayor Ivy Taylor, who is serving out the 10-month unexpired term of former Mayor and now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.
Taylor was feted at a $500-1,000-a-person fundraiser at Club Giraud on Thursday, which drew more than 60 people, according to one business leader who attended. The event was organized by some of the city’s highest profile business and civic leaders, including Spurs owners Peter and Julianna Holt, Red McCombs, Bill Greehey, Rackspace Co-Founder and Chairman Graham Weston, former Mayor and HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, and David Zachry. According to the invitation letter signed by the group, the purpose of the fundraiser was to provide Taylor with resources for her officeholder account.
Taylor has not publicly stated whether she will change her original position and campaign for a full term in May. People who know the mayor offer different readings on her intentions. It’s seems safe to say she’s thinking hard about it, but has not made a decision.
Some supporters would like to see Taylor become the next CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority if current CEO Lourdes Castro Ramirez wins approval in the U.S. Senate of her nomination as assistant secretary at HUD. Hers is one of more than 150 stalled nominations. A September confirmation hearing date was postponed indefinitely.
Others say Taylor will run for the Texas Legislature if and when state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-Dist. 120) retires. At least one supporter said Taylor could serve as SAHA CEO and hold a legislative seat simultaneously since the housing authority does not receive state funds.
Political observers also have speculated that state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) will run for mayor if she is defeated this week in her race against state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) for Lieutenant Governor. Van De Putte said at a press conference in August that she would not be a candidate for mayor, but that could change if she loses Tuesday and her supporters rally anew.
Finally, a candidate usually emerges from City Council Districts 8, 9, or 10 – the three suburban districts. District 8 Councilmember Ron Nirenberg sought the interim mayor’s position won by Taylor, and has expressed interest as a first-term council member in a future run.
District 9 Councilmember Joe Krier, also serving his first term, is better known after serving for 20 years as president and CEO of what is now the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. He also has considered a run, according to friends.
Today the focus is on Tuesday’s general election. That will change by week’s end. For now, Villarreal is running unopposed.
*Featured/top image: Mike Villarreal. Image courtesy of Mike Villarreal for Mayor of San Antonio’s Facebook page.