Elected Mayor Ivy Taylor gives a speech at her election party. Photo by Joan Vinson.

Interim Mayor Ivy Taylor was the last candidate to jump into the race, had the least experience in elected office of the four major candidates, and was outspent at least 2-1 by runoff opponent and former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. None of that was enough to unseat her from the office she has held on an interim basis since last July when Julían Castro stepped down to go to Washington and join the Obama administration.

Taylor’s victory Saturday makes her the first African-American and only the second woman to win election to the mayor’s office in San Antonio, an outcome that will have analysts puzzling for some time in an increasingly majority Hispanic city. Ultimately, what they will conclude is San Antonio is two cities. The general population is minority-majority, largely Hispanic. The city’s voting population, however, is Anglo-dominant, older and more politically conservative than the general population.

With all votes counted, Taylor defeated Van de Putte 50,659-47,328, a 3,331 vote margin and good enough for a 51.70%-48.30% win, a 3.4% difference.

Taylor showed stronger on Election Day than predicted by Van de Putte supporters, who expected to lose the early vote convincingly and then make up the difference with Saturday’s turnout. Instead, Taylor won the early vote by less than some expected, but stayed strong on Election Day.

Taylor’s husband Rodney and daughter Morgan stood by her side as she gave her victory speech to an ecstatic crowd at the Wyndham Garden Riverwalk Hotel in downtown San Antonio.

“Y’all know me, I have to start out by thanking the Lord.” Taylor said.

Mayor Ivy Taylor was surrounded by her family as she gave her victory speech. Photo by Joan Vinson.
Mayor Ivy Taylor was surrounded by her family as she gave her victory speech. Photo by Joan Vinson.

She went on to thank her family, campaign team, and the people of “our wonderful, beautiful City of San Antonio.”

Referring to her victory over Van de Putte, Taylor said, “Do you realize that we have defeated a political machine? ”

At the end of her speech, Taylor said it’s time to get back to work.

“We’ve got to make sure that we ensure our fiscal stewardship and part of that is with our public safety unions. I think that we’ve got big challenges with issues like transportation.”

Although San Antonio’s economy is strong, Taylor said, “We’ve got to make sure that more San Antonians connect to that prosperity through workforce development, job skills training, and education.”

Taylor did not mention Van de Putte in her victory remarks.

Van de Putte was surrounded by family and hundreds of her supporters as she conceded Saturday shortly after 9:30 p.m..

“Tonight there’s a little bit of heartbreak and some tears, but we are so proud,” Van de Putte said. She described the runoff as a “tough race,” but said she had already telephoned Mayor Taylor to promise, “As a third-generation San Antonian, I would be right alongside her, and together we would create San Antonio into the great American city that we know she is.”

Leticia Van de Putte  and her husband Pete Van de Putte walks out to give a concession speech at her election party.  Photo by Scott Ball.
Leticia Van de Putte and her husband Pete Van walk out for her concession speech. Photo by Scott Ball.

Van de Putte Campaign Manager Christian Archer said the Election Day turnout went against them.

“Election Day saw a much bigger voter turnout on the Northside for Ivy,” Archer said. “While we definitely narrowed the gap, we certainly didn’t do it fast enough.”

In the end, only 96,277 people, 14.5% of the city’s 660,983 registered voters, went to the polls. Early voting over eight days drew 65,091 voters, more than 67% of the total vote, while 31,136 voted Saturday. Van de Putte supporters had hoped for a turnout of 40,000 voters on Saturday.

Taylor won 34,070 votes, or 52.51% of the early vote, while Van de Putte won 30,813 votes, or 47.49%.

Former Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, who finished a distant fourth in the May 9 vote and then endorsed Taylor, was more optimistic as the vote count moved toward completion.

“Ivy in effect, I thought, achieved probably one of those rare political harmonic convergences where people just come together,” Adkisson said. “I thought she really delivered as we were hoping and thinking that she would.”

Earlier, the view was cautiously optimistic at Van de Putte headquarters.

Leticia Van de Putte gives her concession speech at her election party.  Photo by Scott Ball.
Leticia Van de Putte gives her concession speech at her election party. Photo by Scott Ball.

“I’ve supported Leticia from the beginning, we’ve been friends for a quarter of a century and I’m excited, it looks like she might win this thing,” Councilmember Ray Lopez (D6), who won re-election on May 9, said of results shortly after 8 p.m. “This has been a divisive race, as most campaigns are, but I think at the end of the day the voters will choose the person who has the most effective plans and vision, and I think Leticia communicated that very effectively.”

“We know that a lot of people tend to come out to vote on Election Day,” Councilmember Shirley Gonzales (D5) said. “We expected an additional 40,000 voters to come out today, and we hope that will bridge the gap and give a victory to Leticia.”

The mayor’s race divided members of City Council, and whether those divisions persist and spill over into governance, or are somehow overcome, remains to be seen.

Campaign Manager Christian Archer reviewing results with Leticia Van de Putte. Photo by Scott Ball
Campaign Manager Christian Archer reviewing results with mayoral candidate and former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo (r) studies results. Photo by Scott Ball

In the only City Council runoff in District 7, incumbent Cris Medina easily won re-election over challenger Mari Aguirre Rodriguez, outpolling her  by more than 1,000 votes, 6,682 to 5,614, with 96% of the boxes counted. Aguirre Rodriguez held the seat by appointment for two months in 2014 while Medina was fulfilling reserve military duty.

Media Report                                       BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS                                Unofficial Results
                                                   RUNOFF ELECTION
                                                   JUNE 13, 2015
RUN DATE:06/13/15 10:07 PM

                                        TOTAL VOTES     %      EARLY VOTE  ELECTION DAY

 PRECINCTS COUNTED (OF 557).  .  .  .  .        557  100.00
 REGISTERED VOTERS - TOTAL .  .  .  .  .    696,469
 BALLOTS CAST - TOTAL.  .  .  .  .  .  .     98,344                65,091        33,253
 VOTER TURNOUT - TOTAL  .  .  .  .  .  .              14.12

CITY OF SAN ANTONIO MAYOR
VOTE FOR  1
    (WITH 557 OF 557 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
 Ivy R. Taylor .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     50,659   51.70        34,070        16,589
 Leticia Van De Putte.  .  .  .  .  .  .     47,328   48.30        30,813        16,515

CITY OF SAN ANTONIO Council, Place No. 7
VOTE FOR  1
    (WITH 51 OF 51 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
 Mari Aguirre-Rodriguez .  .  .  .  .  .      5,668   45.71         3,751         1,917
 Cris Medina.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      6,732   54.29         4,510         2,222

Both Van de Putte and Taylor pushed hard in the runoff, meeting at five forums, trading punches in the media and in direct mail pieces, taking to social media, announcing endorsements, and rallying their bases. Christian Archer, campaign manager for Van de Putte, predicted in the closing week that Saturday’s turnout would be strong enough for his candidate to overcome an eight-point Taylor lead in early voting. That proved to be unrealistic, especially with lower-than-expected voter turnout Saturday.

The 2015 campaign, including the runoff, set a record for campaign spending, both by an individual candidate and by the field.

Van de Putte estimates she spent $1.1 million in the two-round race, a city record surpassing the nearly $1 million former Mayor Phil Hardberger spent in 2005. Taylor, who entered the race just before the February 28 deadline, spent between $400,000 and $500,000. Villarreal, the first to declare his candidacy for mayor last July, spent an estimated $800,000 in the first round. Final campaign reports will be available later this month.

All along, Taylor was expected to win the early vote, which attracts more older, conservative white voters. Hispanics and younger voters of all races and ethnicities vote in lower numbers, especially in local elections. In the early vote from June 1-9,  80% of the voters were 50 years old or older, and less than 6% were 35 years old or younger. The remaining 14% were between 35-50 years old.

A last-day rush of early voters swelled the eight-day turnout to 60,326 voters, nearly 7,500 more than the 52,859 who voted early in the May 9 General Election. A total of 10,753 people voted Tuesday. That’s 8.7% of registered voters compared to 7.5% that turned out for early voting in the May 9 General Election.

There was one wild card to this round’s early vote: Nearly 17,000 of those who voted June 1-9 did not vote in the first round, which means 5,000 people who did vote early in the first round did not vote early in the second round.

“48% of those 16,939 voters live in my former Senate district and 52.3% of the total are Hispanic and 58% are women,” Van de Putte said Wednesday, yet Villarreal’s decision not to endorse her likely kept some of his supporters on the sidelines. Some probably wouldn’t have voted for either Van de Putte or Taylor even with a Villarreal endorsement, if social media is an accurate barometer. Many self-identified Villarreal voters took to Facebook and Twitter after his third place finish on May 9 to lament the outcome and express a dislike for the top two finishers, many saying they didn’t know how to choose between the two or posting they were not going to vote in the runoff.

The impact of Villarreal staying out of the runoff will be the subject of continuing debate in the weeks ahead. Neither he nor Van de Putte have any immediate plans to pursue elected office.

“I would have loved to have had Mike’s support, but a huge number of Mike’s supporters and Mike’s financial backers came over,” Van de Putte said.

The May 9 General Election

Only 2% separated Van de Putte, who finished first, and Taylor, who finished 2.3% ahead of Villarreal. Van de Putte had 25,982 votes, 30.43%, while Taylor had 24,245 votes, 28.40%. Villarreal had 22,246 votes, 26.06%. Former Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, who endorsed Taylor in the runoff, had 8,344 votes, 9.77%. The other 10 candidates for mayor accounted for about 5% of the total vote.

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Mayoral Final May 9 City Elections

Rivard Reporter Joan Vinson and freelance writer Lea Thompson  contributed to this report.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor and publisher of the Rivard Report.