Rocío Guenther / Rivard Report
The city’s procrastinators don’t have much time left to have their say in the general election. Hours from now, we will know how candidates fared in the San Antonio mayoral and City Council races, and the City’s record $850 million bond package.
Many election observers are expecting runoffs in the mayor’s race and multiple City Council districts.
If the early vote is any indication, there may be a slightly higher total voter turnout this year, yet once again, the vast majority of the city’s nearly one million registered voters will skip the election. Less than 12% of registered voters turned out for the 2015 municipal election. Election officials do not expect that percentage to climb more than a few points at most.
Voters in most districts will see a long list of candidates to choose from. Mayor Ivy Taylor faces 13 challengers, most notably City Councilman Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina. Council districts 6, 8, 9, and 10, are open seats and have eight or more candidates on the ballot.
There are 287 polling location across the county and members of the Rivard Report staff visited several to talk to voters carrying out their civic duty. Click here to check your voting registration status and polling location.
Doretta Reif, 93, has lived in District 7 since 1957, and has voted in nearly every municipal and general election since President Herbert Hoover was in office. On Saturday morning, keeping with tradition, she voted at Thomas Jefferson High School: Ana Sandoval for District 7 councilwoman, Ivy Taylor for mayor, and yes to all six of the bond propositions.
Reif believes Sandoval, who was raised in the district, will be effective in getting more fundamental needs addressed in her area, such as bettering the sidewalks in some areas near her home.
“In all my years of voting I’ve never seen a [candidate] that has such a wonderful background, education wise and experience wise,” she said after casting her vote. “She has an amazing background, [and] she has been active in so many different things in the community.”
Reif’s strong beliefs in robust educational opportunities throughout the community made her particularly proud to cast her “yes” vote for the $450 million Alamo Colleges bond program, she said, which would go toward new facility construction and needed building renovations.
At Sam Houston High School, District 2 Candidate William “Cruz” Shaw surveyed a quiet parking lot. Turnout had been slow at each polling place, he said.
District 2 incumbent Councilman Alan Warrick showed up to Sam Houston shortly after Shaw, and confirmed that the longest line he had seen in the district was four or five people long.
At noon on election day, Warrick said, 4,000 ballots had been cast in his district, mostly during early voting. Another estimate, by Shaw’s campaign, has the early voting estimate at 3,500. If turnout breaches 5,000, it will be a record for a municipal election in the district.
“The election is over, I’m just waiting for the results,” Warrick said.
Shaw, there with his wife Michelle Garcia Shaw, felt confident in his campaign. “I’m at peace with whatever happens.”
One of the trickle of voters at Sam Houston was Priscilla Franklin, 56. She demurred when asked about her ballot choices, but was firm about the importance of voting.
“Everybody should have a voice, and today mine will be heard,” Franklin said. “The city needs strong leadership, and we need to let them know.”
She did say that she had been on the fence about the city bond, but didn’t want to say on which side she had come down.
Most people the Rivard Report approached at voting sites declined to share their candidate choices, including Naybu Fullman, who recently moved to San Antonio and lives in District 6.
Without providing a name, he said he’ll be voting for the candidate he feels will attract businesses to provide more local jobs.
“Keeping up with growth” is one of the biggest challenges San Antonio faces, he said, so he will vote in favor of the $850 million municipal bond package.
The Rivard Report spoke with Fullman as he was leaving Robert L. Vale Middle School near Sea World San Antonio. Apparently, he was in the wrong spot for his precinct. We ran into several other people in the same boat on Saturday – a little frustrated, but determined.
“I voted for Pelaez because I think he brings a fresh look to the issues, especially public safety and transportation,” she said. “This is a safe place to live in the city. I feel safe running around here and I want that to continue.”
Rivera said she respected what Nirenberg did in her district as council member, a district which is considered one of the most diverse in San Antonio.
“When I went to school here, I remember there being an even mix of white, asian, white, black, and hispanic students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. I take great pride in District 8,” Rivera said.
John Velasquez, a local psychologist, was her choice for mayor, she said, because his main focus is on mental health issues in the city.
“We need better accessibility for mental health care. We’re such a military city and we need to support our troops when they come home and put more emphasis on the VA system,” she said. “Another big issue for me is transportation – clean transportation. Dallas has a great [rail system] downtown and it’s above ground. It would be great if we could have something like that for downtown that we could ride to the River Walk or Pat O’Brien’s. This would be a clean, sustainable way to get around downtown. We could start there and then figure out what else will work for the rest of the city.”