With the outcome of the Nov. 4 general elections still one week away, it might seem premature to speculate about the May 9 city elections in San Antonio when voters will elect a mayor and 11 City Council members.
On the other hand, maybe not.
A $1,000 a person fundraiser for Mayor Ivy Taylor will be staged Thursday at Club Giraud, the strongest evidence to date that the interim mayor and former District 2 Council representative is seriously reconsidering her position not to run as a candidate for mayor.
The invitation letter, sent to various business leaders, developers, and others, was signed by seven powerhouse figures who represent a Who’s Who of San Antonio business and political elite: Red McCombs, David Zachry, Henry Cisneros, Bill Greehey, Graham Weston, Julianna M. Holt and Peter Holt.
The invitation-only reception comes just as Mayor Taylor is launching a citywide “Meet the Mayor: From Potholes to Policy” tour of the City’s branch libraries and 10 Council districts. The tour was officially announced in a Monday press release, although individual Council members were informed via email two weeks ago of the planned community meetings.
Mayor Taylor will hold her first meeting Tuesday from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Mission Branch Library at 3134 Roosevelt Ave. on the city’s Southside. The library is in District 3, a seat held by Councilmember Rebecca Viagran, a strong and early supporter of Taylor and her decision to seek the interim mayor’s office.
Taylor will hold meetings at nine other branch libraries between November and March. The meetings are free and open to the public.
“Mayor Taylor is flattered by the interest and encouragement but has made no decision about running, ” said Cary Clack, the mayor’s director of communications. “None of these events are inconsistent with her goal to have a meaningful impact during her tenure as Mayor, even if it’s only for 10 months.”
The fundraising letter makes no mention of Mayor Taylor’s future political plans, if any, and does not commit those who signed the letter to supporting any future campaign. Such a high profile political event, however, is bound to generate speculation that Taylor is testing the waters for a potential run and starting to build a campaign fund.
The letter praises her performance as mayor over the first three months of her one-year interim term that runs through May, and positions the fundraiser as an effort to help her defray the expenses of governing in a city that pays only token sums to its elected leaders.
Here is the text of the letter:
“Mayor Ivy Taylor has provided the leadership San Antonio needed after Secretary Castro’s acceptance of his Cabinet position in Washington, D.C.,” the letter states. “She has hit the ground running, unafraid to tackle the tough issues our city faces, whether it is utility fees, the streetcar project, or fire and police contract negotiations.
“Relying on her background in municipal planning, Mayor Ivy has set her sights on improving the core services of municipal government to maintain the momentum and keep our city moving forward. In fact, thanks to the Mayor’s vision, San Antonio is developing a comprehensive plan to tackle Charter reform and transportation, and provide our citizens with the transparent and effective government they deserve and expect.
“We want to thank Mayor Ivy for providing stable, thoughtful leadership for San Antonio during this interim period and hope you will join us in helping her lead our city. As you know, there are many initiatives, programs, and events that our city government does not fund for the office of Mayor, so we need to provide funding through the officeholder account for these important investments.
“Please join us for a fundraiser honoring the Mayor on Thursday, Oct. 30, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Club Giraud…We hope you will contribute at the Host level of $1,000 per person to assist Mayor Ivy in leading our city forward.” Individuals are given the option of attending at the Sponsor level of $500.”
Taylor is the first African-American and the second woman to serve as San Antonio mayor. She has held the office since July 22 after her fellow Council members unanimously chose her to fill the unexpired third term of then-Mayor Julián Castro, who resigned to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration.
Last summer, as she joined several other Council members in vying to replace Castro, Taylor said she would not run in May. Her subsequent decision to launch long-term planning initiatives was taken as one indication she might be reconsidering. The high marks she has received since taking office also have served to stir speculation.
There is intense hope and expectation in the city’s small but energized African-American community that Taylor will run and seek to become the first elected African-American mayor at a time when the historically ignored Eastside is starting to see significant public and private investment. No one in the community’s leadership wants to see that momentum slowed in any way. A big question is whether San Antonio, a predominantly Hispanic city, is ready to elect an African-American mayor or whether voters would follow tradition and vote along racial and ethnic lines.
State Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-123) was the first to declare his intentions to run for mayor, announcing eight days after Taylor was sworn into office. He secured longtime business and civic leader Mike Beldon as his campaign treasurer, a key move, given Beldon’s successful roles in past campaigns. Villarreal has raised $250,000 to date, a formidable sum this early in the going.
Villarreal previously said he planned to remain on the Nov. 4 ballot unopposed, win re-election as a legislator, and then step down to run for mayor, paving the way for a special election in District 123. It is widely expected that District 1 Councilmember Diego Bernal would resign his council seat and seek Villarreal’s seat in the Texas Legislature.
Others have speculated that state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), if defeated in next Tuesday’s lieutenant governor’s race against state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), might run for mayor, but she held a press conference in August to quash those rumors.
“Under no circumstance will I be running for mayor of San Antonio. I will be in the Senate come January 2015,” Van de Putte said then. You can read the Texas Tribune coverage of her remarks by clicking here. Anyone on the Van de Putte Campaign’s email list can attest to her 24/7 focus on winning the lieutenant governor’s race.
Until the Nov. 4 election results are in and individuals make official decisions about their political plans, the horse race variables are pure speculation. For Mayor Taylor, however, with a major fundraiser this week and a carefully planned series of meetings in all 10 Council districts on the calendar over the next five months, the speculation is bound to intensify unless she renews her original pledge.
*Featured/top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor stands with her husband Rodney Taylor and daughter Morgan moments after Ivy was sworn in as mayor in July 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.