Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
“Ron would just be a tremendous mayor for the city. He can reach into every part of his community and he can pull people together to get things done,” Castro told reporters at Nirenberg’s Broadway Street campaign headquarters on Saturday morning.
“I had a chance to work with Ron when I was mayor, and I was very impressed with his ability to work with people from different parts of town, different backgrounds, different perspectives. I know that he’ll be an action-oriented mayor who will create more opportunity in San Antonio.”
Nirenberg, who serves as District 8 Councilman, is facing Mayor Ivy Taylor in a June 10 runoff, with early voting running from May 30 to June 6. Taylor received 42% of the vote while Nirenberg finished with 37% – a margin of less than five percentage points. Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina trailed with 15% of the vote in a race that featured 14 candidates.
Castro was elected mayor in 2009, 2011, and 2013, but did not complete his third term after being tapped by former President Barack Obama as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The City Council chose Taylor to fill out Castro’s term, and she won the office in 2015.
“I have a lot of respect for Ivy,” Castro said before going door-to-door with Nirenberg to drum up support for the councilman’s campaign. “I served with her for several years when I was mayor and she was councilwoman. … Ron has an understanding of the whole city. … He has great experience, and he’s been right on several of the issues. I just think that he would be more effective.”
Colin Strother, who recently joined Taylor’s staff as general consultant for the runoff race, advised Castro back in 2005 during his first run for mayor and also worked on the campaign of U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, Julián Castro’s twin brother, for state representative in 2002.
“Castro is my friend and I love him and respect him, but he’s flat out wrong,” Strother said. “There’s zero evidence that [Ron has] been effective doing anything except for saving one bat colony. Every week in council, he finds himself on the wrong end of votes – he couldn’t put six votes together on City Council if his life depended on it.”
Nirenberg was against the new five-year police union contract, in favor of increasing VIA funding alongside Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4), and supportive of an amendment for the Alamo Master Plan – all stances that failed to get enough Council support to pass.
Nirenberg said he’s been in constant communication with Castro and other former mayors for a long time to get advice on policy issues. He said he was the one who asked for Castro’s support.
Taylor’s political strategy has been to divide the community “to suit political ends,” Nirenberg said, whereas he has focused on uniting all pockets of the city. He said Castro “represented all of San Antonio” when he was mayor. Nirenberg wants to do the same.
“Castro was mayor when the city had momentum, when we were creating jobs, [and] when companies like Tesla were talking to us and when the crime rate was lower … ” Nirenberg said. “I’m proud to be part of the team that will restore that momentum.”
Taylor’s “dwindling support” was evident when a majority of San Antonians did not support the incumbent last Saturday during the election, Nirenberg said, and shows that the momentum that Castro started has been lost.
“Citizens see that the city has stagnated under her tenure and they want change,” he added. “San Antonians want a city that is more aggressive on job creation … and where we have elected officials living up to the highest standards of integrity … The vast majority of San Antonians want a change in leadership. The mayor’s office is too important to have a placeholder.”
Kelton Morgan, Nirenberg’s campaign manager, told the Rivard Report that Nirenberg picked up significant support on the Northside during the election, which holds a slab of voters who have traditionally supported Taylor.
“Already the [Northside] coalition that put Taylor in office in 2015 has cracked and is crumbling to pieces,” Morgan said. “The precincts that she won in 2015, she’s lost this time around and she lost her neighborhood this time around – the people that know her best.”
Strother called Morgan’s statement “demonstrably false and wishful thinking.” He thinks Morgan is living in a “post-fact” world.
Voters supported Nirenberg in 31 Northside precincts that had previously gone to Taylor when she first ran for mayor in 2015, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
“The mayor in comparison to Ron clearly had a larger footprint of support in the city,” Strother said. “Ron is focusing on a narrow slice of the political spectrum and liberals. Ivy is focusing on the entire political spectrum.”
Neither Nirenberg, who describes himself as an “independent,” nor Taylor, a socially conservative Democrat, have held a partisan office.
The dynamics have changed going into a runoff election, Strother said. “It’s now a binary choice.”
Medina told the Express-News Monday that he would be making a public statement about the runoff election “later this week.” It remains to be seen if Medina will endorse Nirenberg or Taylor. Several Medina voters were present Saturday to show their support for Nirenberg.
“I had a meeting with Ron before the elections and told him that I made a commitment to Manuel Medina, but if he doesn’t make it, ‘I definitely will support you,'” said Rosa Rosales, a past national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
Castro said he’ll do anything he can to help Nirenberg win the mayoral seat. When asked about his own political future, he said he is “taking a break” to finish a book he is currently working on.
“Ron [has] integrity, a strong vision for the city, and folks will decide,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m confident that a lot of voters will see what an impressive mayor that Ron would make.”