Interim District 2 Councilmember Keith Toney and small business owner Alan Warrick II are headed for a Dec. 9 runoff election after finishing in a near-tie in Tuesday's five-way contest for the Eastside seat on City Council.
Toney took the early voting lead over Warrick, 35-30%, but with all precincts counted, political newcomer Warrick, 33, finished with 32.25% versus 31.43% for Toney. About 10,000 district residents voted Tuesday.
Norris Tyrone Darden, 34, finished a strong third with 25%. Ntando McIntoch and Elmo Aycock each finished in single figures. How Darden and his supporters view the runoff contest could be the deciding factor a little more than one month from now. Neither one of the surviving candidates claimed instant endorsements from the losers.
Toney seemed quietly disappointed with the outcome at City Council B Session on Wednesday, even as he acknowledged that there were too many candidates for anyone to win outright. Even as the appointed incumbent, he has held the office for less than three months, not enough time to establish a record or a deep network of supporters. Warrick, who also sought the interim appointment, seemed to have the upper hand in the yard sign battle and probably enjoys equal name recognition at this point.
"I stay in touch with people, keep an open dialogue," Toney said when asked about his plans for a runoff campaign. "I'm focused on doing the people's business. I'm not focused on fundraising or anything, I have people who are doing that. We are going to do what we have to do to get it done, and we're going to do it morally and legally."
Has he sought endorsements from any of the losing candidates?
"There's been some reaching out from our side to others, and from others reaching out to us."
But no specifics yet.
Toney was appointed to the Council seat on Aug.14 after then-Councilmember Ivy Taylor was elected Interim Mayor to serve out the 10-month unexpired term of Mayor Julián Castro, who became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration. Toney was chosen out of a large field of hopefuls and unanimous elected by City Council.
Toney is a former board president of the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District, a position he held for 10 years. He's also a decorated Vietnam War veteran. He has an undergraduate degree in government from Chapman University in California and a master's degree in human resources management from Pepperdine University in Malibu.
According to Toney's profile on the City's website, he moved to the Eastside in 1992 and will "continue to focus on education and job development, encouraging responsible urban growth while still honoring the needs of small businesses and families in the very community where he’s proud to live and work."
The bow-tied Warrick grew up on Burleson Street on Dignowity Hill and brings youth as well as local roots to the table.
"I've been on boards, too," Warrick said Wednesday. "I also run my own business with 220 employees."
It's time for Millennials to take ownership in their cities, Warrick said.
"I’m not going anywhere and my generation isn't going anywhere and it’s time for us to take the helm."
Warrick said Wednesday that he has spoken with the other candidates about endorsements.
"Nothing (sure) as of yet, we're still in talks," he said. "We're all younger guys and it's a generational shift. I'm fairly confident that they understand that (our generation) will move this district forward – any one of us could be in a leadership role in District 2. We're not going to let it go backward."
Warrick's family has lived on the Eastside for several generations. He joined his grandfather's World Technical Services after graduating from Florida A&M University with a degree in architecture, learning how to provide training and jobs to people with disabilities. He became the local nonprofit's CEO in 2008.
He wants to see a more aggressive effort to activate the Eastside neighborhoods – to become the vibrant connection between Southtown and the Pearl.
"(We need to) get people back to the District – move-in ready housing that can compete with the rest of the city," he said. "We're going to suffer because we just don't have enough people ... we have too many vacant lots and homes in District 2.
"Most of our streets are quiet after 5 p.m. and that's not a good thing," he added. "Once it turns dark, people are just sitting outside, waiting – for I don't know, I'm assuming drugs."
Almost $50 million in federal funding has been awarded to areas within District 2 through the $23.70 million Eastside Promise Zone and $29.75 million Choice Neighborhood designations, which have a geographic footprint of four square miles in the heart of the historic Eastside. The new development to drive Eastside revitalization is collectively known as Eastpoint.
Some of that transformation has been initiated. More and more homes are being bought, sold and renovated in the Dignowity Hill neighborhood, where the value of empty lots has started to rise quickly as more and more first-time home buyers discover the near-downtown neighborhood and its historic homes, many of them in shabby condition and available for prices ranging from $50-100,000. The historic Hays Street Bridge enjoys a steady stream of users, and the under-construction Alamo Brewery in its shadow is close to completion.
From the development of the Red Berry Estate to the razing of the Wheatley Courts housing project, there are plans on the table for mixed-use, mixed-income communities with improved infrastructure, access to better schools, more neighborhood businesses, and improved public safety.
Both housing projects have been lauded by Toney, but Warrick said they're not ambitious enough. Warrick would like to see something that better connects the surrounding neighborhood and sports arenas.
The two candidates have a little more than one month to make their case. Stay tuned.
*Featured/top image: Alan Warrick II (left) and District 2 Councilmember Keith Toney. Courtesy photos.