The Mayor’s Lottery: Pick a Number, Any Number

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_____ secured the No. ___ spot on the May 9 ballot. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

The electronic ballot for the May 9 City Election ballot is not going to be an easy one to navigate. Voters will be selecting a mayor, choosing a City Council representative in all 10 districts, considering two City Charter amendments, which will be listed as Propositions 1 and 2, and considering another Proposition 1, which will determine whether voters support the extension of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program. And in many parts of the city, voters will be electing a school board trustee.

Only 7% of registered voters made it to the polls in 2013 when Mayor Julián Castro cruised to a third term victory and there was little else on the ballot to attract citywide attention. This year, with a widely contested mayor’s race and opponents challenging incumbents in all 10 council districts, and the charter amendments, interest should run higher. Early voting will be held from April 27-May 5.

Candidates or their representatives arrived at City Council chambers Monday morning to draw lots to determine the order of name placement on the ballot. As candidates waited in the audience, the room seemed to be filled with equal parts anticipation and dread. It doesn’t matter much if you are first, second or even third in a three-person race. Three our four names fit easily enough on a single screen of a voting machine.

City Council chambers filled with election candidates to draw lots to determine the order of name placement on the May 9 ballot. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

City Council chambers filled with election candidates to draw lots to determine the order of name placement on the May 9 ballot. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

But there are 14 people running for mayor, and in an informal street poll I conducted downtown Monday, I was unable to find a single person who could name six candidates. Quite a few people named three, several named four, a few named five and none could name six. Four of the candidates are running visible campaigns with yard signs, frequent public appearances, organized block walking events and participating in public forums.

But what about voters who won’t recognize the names of Ivy R. Taylor, Mike Villarreal, Leticia Van de Putte or Tommy Adkisson? The four frontrunners are seasoned officeholders who have run multiple campaigns and appeared on multiple ballots. But they face 10 other candidates, some of whom have filed for office before but none of whom have much name recognition or a record of holding elective office. I’m talking about Paul Martinez, Douglas Emmett, Michael “Commander” Idrogo, Raymond Zavala, Rhett Rosenquest Smith, Julie Iris “MamaBexar” Oldham, Cynthia Cavazos, Gerard Ponce, Pogo Mochello Reese, and Cynthia Brehm.

Rhett Rosenquest Smith secured the No. 9 spot on the May 9 ballot. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

Rhett Rosenquest Smith secured the No. 9 spot on the May 9 ballot. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

The voting machines are going to have as hard a time as the voters with the mayor’s race. There is simply no way to list all 14 names on a single computer screen, and I wonder if even two screens will prove sufficient. It’s even more of a challenge when two of the candidates feature “Commander” and “MamaBexar,” nicknames that have to be listed.

If you are a candidate listed on the second screen, you have to wonder: How many people will think the contest is only between the candidates listed on the first screen and cast their vote before they get to the next screen? The computer allows a voter to reverse a decision and also prompts a voter to review his or her choices before pressing “VOTE,” but that’s small comfort to a second page candidate.

So how did the draw go Monday morning?

Candidates were called up to the dais by City Clerk Leticia Vacek in the order their filed applications to run, and the first to file was Paul Martinez, a retired U.S. Army veteran, Lanier High School and University of Texas graduate. Martinez describes himself as a conservative Christian on his website and eschews any party affiliation. Martinez drew No. 1, putting him first on the ballot.

Gerard Ponce drew next, faring less well at No. 12. Ponce sought the Republican nomination for county judge in the 2014 primary where he lost to Carlton Soules. Pogo Mochello Reese, who also is retired U.S. Army, drew third, and drew even worse, picking No. 13. Former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, who has been campaigning the longest among the major candidates since last July, drew next and secured the No. 6 spot. Good, not great.

Former state Rep. Mike Villarreal draw lots to determine the placement of his name on the May 9 ballot. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

Former state Rep. Mike Villarreal secured the No. 6 spot on the May 9 ballot. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

A representative for state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte was the fifth in line to draw, and she pulled No. 8. That seems like page two. Rhett Rosenquist Smith, who lists his occupation as “private security,” drew next and pulled No. 9. Raymond Zavala, who listed his occupation as “none,” then drew No. 4. A representative for Tommy Adkisson was next, drawing No. 7. Cynthia Brehm, who listed her occupation as retired, drew No. 14.  Cynthia Cavazos, who listed her occupation as “A Mission of Gods (sic) Love/Social Service,” drew No. 11.

Michael “Commander” Idrogo, who listed his occupation as “Federal Officer, Navy Commander, Veteran of Foreign Wars,” drew No. 3. Mayor Ivy R. Taylor, also represented by a proxy, drew No. 5, the lowest number of the major candidates. Douglas Emmett, a financial advisor, drew No. 2, and the last candidate to draw, Julie Iris “MamaBexar” Oldham, who lists herself as a “political activist,” drew No. 10.

The four major candidates will be Mayor Taylor at No. 5, Villarreal at No. 6, Adkisson at No. 7 and Van de Putte at #8.

By the end of business Monday, city officials did not know how the 14 candidates would be presented on-screen to voters.

City Council incumbents face far fewer opponents, but Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1), appointed in December to replace Diego Bernal, who was elected to fill Villarreal’s former seat in the Texas House, faces four challengers and is listed fourth out of five candidates. Alan Warrick II (D2) is third on a ballot of three candidates, and challenger Keith Toney, who Warrick defeated in a special election runoff in December, is listed first.

Councilmembers Rebecca Viagran (D3), Shirley Gonzales (D5) and Mike Gallagher (D10) are listed first on the ballots in their races. Viagran and Gonzales each drew two opponents, while Gallagher drew only one.

Councilmembers Rey Saldaña (D4), Ray Lopez (D6) and Ron Nirenberg (D8) all are listed last on the ballot in their districts. Saldaña has two opponents, Lopez has one, and Nirenberg has three.

Councilmembers Cris Medina (D7) and Joe Krier (D9) are listed second and each drew four opponents.

Better take a cheat sheet with you to the polls.

CANDIDATE LISTING

as of Monday, March 2, 2015
(Order as Name will appear on Ballot)

MAYOR

DISTRICT 1

DISTRICT 2


DISTRICT 3

DISTRICT 4


DISTRICT 5

DISTRICT 6


DISTRICT 7

DISTRICT 8


DISTRICT 9

DISTRICT 10

 

*Featured/top image:Paul Martinez secured the No. 1 spot on the May 9 ballot. Photo by Gretchen Greer.

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One thought on “The Mayor’s Lottery: Pick a Number, Any Number

  1. “There is simply no way to list all 14 names on a single computer screen,”

    How ridiculous. This is only true with you have a very badly designed computer voting system, as we have here with scroll wheels and bad interfaces.

    My laptop very easily displayed all 14 names on a single screen (as I read your post).

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