Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Despite a mayoral race that landed incumbent Mayor Ron Nirenberg in a runoff with Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) on Saturday, City Council incumbents rolled to decisive victories Saturday.
All three City Council Districts with open seats – District 2, 4, and 6 – will have runoffs, with no candidate reaching the 50 percent threshold. See full election results here.
The seven Council incumbents won by an average margin of 33 percentage points over their closest challengers.
Two-term incumbent Roberto Treviño, an architect who ran on his efforts to fix sidewalks and upgrade roofs, surged to an early voting lead that barely budged as Election Day results came in. Treviño’s campaign was marked by extensive digital advertising on social media platforms and a volunteer push in the days before the election.
“We put in the work,” Treviño said from his campaign watch party at Bob’s Burgers on Hildebrand Avenue, his hair and blazer covered in cascaron confetti even before half of precincts had reported results.
“It’s about infrastructure, it’s about housing, it’s about compatible development,” said Treviño, who received 5,750, or 59.6 percent of all votes, according to unofficial totals.
Treviño’s strong victory came despite some controversy he’s experienced over his stance on social issues, such as a recent vote to remove Chick-fil-A from an airport concession contract because of its executives’ views on LGBTQ issues. A text blast from Treviño’s campaign on election day touted his status as a Democrat and his efforts to “fight for our progressive values.”
“District 1 is the heart and soul of the city, and it’s also the heart and soul of our LGBTQ community,” Treviño said in an interview. “They feel good about my stance on [Chick-fil-A] and I make no apologies.”
Treviño’s top opponent, hotelier Justin Holley, 46, acknowledged that his opponent had run a strong campaign. He said he would continue to push Treviño to work harder for the district as he enters his third term in office.
“I think he’s a better councilman because we chased his butt,” Holley said. “And if he doesn’t keep up with that pressure, I’m going to be right behind him pushing him like there’s no tomorrow.”
Holley, who got 1,689 votes, or 17.5 percent, said the campaign experience introduced him more fully to San Antonio’s issues, particularly the city’s high poverty rates.
“We have a lot of work to do as a community,” Holley said. “Until you actually get out and start block-walking and knocking on doors, you don’t see the true picture of what our community is.”
Other contenders for the District 1 seat included contractor Brad Kessler, 22; international trade specialist Oscar Magaña, 34; retired military serviceman and investment firm employee Raymond Zavala, 67; former auto shop owner Richard Gonzales, 57; lawyer Lauro A. Bustamante, 68; retired Marine Alan Dennis Inchaurregui, 40; and barista Colton Unden, 18.
Kessler came in third behind Treviño and Holley, garnering 567 votes, or 5.9 percent.
Retired federal employee Keith Toney will face Jada Andrews-Sullivan, a disabled U.S. Army veteran and motivational speaker in a runoff in East San Antonio’s District 2. Toney garnered 1,456 votes, or 27 percent. Andrews-Sullivan received 1,157 votes, or 21.4 percent. But artist and community organizer Denise Gutierrez-Homer followed closely behind with 1,098 votes, missing the runoff by just 60 votes.
A runoff is triggered when no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote.
Toney said he’ll emphasize his background as a former representative of the district while campaigning ahead of the runoff.
“The biggest contrast [between me and Andrews-Sullivan] is in experience – or lack thereof – so we’ll highlight that, and we’ll see what the voters say,” Toney said.
“We’re excited and ready to get to work,” Andrews-Sullivan said, adding that she and her campaign team will go into “full-work mode” beginning tomorrow to prepare for the runoff.
“We’ll be speaking to those people that need to be talked to, making those phone calls, and making sure our presence is known in the community,” she said.
Trailing by significant margins were Joseph Powell, a self-described “protest candidate;” Richard Anthony Ramey, a graduate student studying counseling; Salena Santibanez Guipzot, who owns a construction consulting company and a drywall business; Walter E. Perry Sr., who is studying for a bachelor’s degree in marketing; and Ruben Arciniega, a program coordinator at the UTSA.
In District 3, three-term incumbent Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran won a fourth and final term by defeating a lone challenger, Elizabeth “Liz” Campos, who also ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2011.
Celebrating with friends, family, and supporters at El Torero restaurant, Viagran said she felt confident her campaign explained to voters her achievements in office and her vision for the future.
“I feel great,” Viagran said at her election watch party at El Torero Bar and Grill. “I feel our message and our facts really resonated with the residents of District 3.”
Viagran received 4,253, or 58 percent, ahead of Campos’s 3,056, or 41.8 percent with all votes counted.
Joined by supporters, family and friends at VFW Post 837, Campos said she was happy with her campaign and the message she sought to offer to voters.
“I am very proud of the race I ran,” said Campos, who has worked as a paralegal and legislative aide. “We have been out in the community since November 2018 talking about the issues and we stuck to talking about policy and city issues in our race. I am proud that we did not launch personal attacks and engage in mudslinging.”
In District 4, Adriana Rocha Garcia will face former Republican candidate for Texas House District 124 Johnny Arredondo in a runoff to replace four-term Councilman Rey Saldaña. Garcia pulled 2,247 votes, or 47 percent of the vote, while Arredondo had 1,011 votes, or 21 percent.
Proposal specialist Samantha “Sami” Sanchez came in third with 16 percent, retired City employee Genevieve Trinidad followed with 7 percent, and insurance salesman Joel Mendoza got 8 percent.
Garcia said her 26-point lead was very encouraging to both her and her volunteers.
“I told them it’s one more month [of campaigning] and they’re already signed up,” she said. “They’re very proud of the work we’ve done up to now. We’ll continue doing the same thing we’ve done, talking to people and knocking on doors.”
Arredondo, who ran for District 4 in 2017 as well, said he was ecstatic to be in the runoff.
“We’re really thankful and appreciative for the people that helped us, becuase we had a very small, minimal staff compared to the person who came out in first place, and all the people who helped us were volunteers,” he said. “There were some things that we learned that we worked on and we look forward to being the underdog in this race.”
Garcia said she sees the the mayoral runoff as an advantage for the District 4 runoff as well as runoffs in other council races.
“People are going to get out and vote for the mayor, so we have a chance of engaging the folks who want to participate in that race and remind them there are runoffs going on,” she said. “I see it as an opportunity that there are several runoffs.”
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales has secured a fourth term after securing 66 percent of the vote for a total of 3,286.
At her election watch part on the West Side of San Antonio, Gonzales said voters turned out to help her secure a fourth term because her “hard work over the last six years” led to quality of life improvement throughout the district.
“People in my district might not know about the work I did on the equity budget, or with the promotoras program, but they see that their lives are improving and their neighborhoods are improving, and in general they have a sense that things are going well and want that to continue.”
Business owner Anthony Gres, whose campaign outspent Gonzales by more than 4 to 1, followed Gonzales with 27 percent of the vote.
Other challengers included former San Antonio River Authority board member Nazarite Ruben F. Perez and Boys and Girls Club facilitator Jilma “Jill” Davila, each of whom received less than 4 percent.
District 6 will go to a runoff for the seat vacated by Brockhouse. Attorney Melissa Cabello Havrda had 4,411 votes, or 47 percent while former Brockhouse advisor Andy Greene received 3,298 for 35 percent of the vote.
This will be the second consecutive election in which Havrda has gone to a runoff in District 6. She lost to Brockhouse by fewer than 500 votes in 2017. She said she learned from that experience and will be better for it this time around.
“I’m not used to being the frontrunner, but I’m glad because it puts me in the position to get out to more communities and I have a lot more help than I did last time,” Havrda, 44, said.
Greene said he is looking forward to the runoff and hopes to get the support of the other District 6 candidates who were eliminated.
“I think I’m going to be able to prove to the voters that I’m the better candidate and we’re just getting started,” Greene said.
Brockhouse did not endorse anyone for his District 6 seat. But Greene said he believes being on a runoff ballot that includes Brockhouse will be helpful.
Havrda had endorsements this year from Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, State Rep. Ina Minjarez, and State Sen. José Menéndez.
Robert “Bobby” Herrera, who represented District 6 on the council more than two decades ago; and political newcomer Mario Adame each had fewer than 800 votes.
Incumbent Ana Sandoval rolled to an easy re-election victory for her second term serving District 7 with 68.3 percent (8,478) of the vote.
Her three opponents – Trevor Whitney, Kimberly Grant, and Will McLeod – garnered just over 32 percent together. Whitney was the nearest challenger, pulling in 18.8 percent of the vote despite reports of aggressive behavior and an abrupt ousting by his employer, Blue Duck Scooters.
At Deco Pizzeria Saturday evening, Sandoval was helping to serve drinks to those attending her watch party and credited District 7 staffers for Saturday’s poll results.
“It’s really all the work my team does at the Council office, and I’m hoping that’s what people remember when they cast their ballots,” she said. “[They] work ’round the clock to help our constituents with what they need … That’s what people are voting for – the service my office brings to them. We’re a team.”
Sandoval, a 42-year-old Thomas Jefferson High School valedictorian with engineering degrees from MIT and Stanford and a graduate degree in public health from Harvard, returns for her second term after winning the seat in 2017.
Whitney blamed his loss on low voter turnout across the city. “And that is always disappointing,” he said. “We learned a lot and awakened a part of the electorate that doesn’t typically vote in city elections.”
With nearly all votes counted, Councilman Manny Pelaez has secured another term on City Council.
Pelaez, an attorney who just completed his first two-year term, received 7,177 votes, or 58.3 percent. His nearest challenger, senior reporting analyst Tony Valdivia, garnered 3,621 votes, or 29.4 percent.
Pelaez said via text message Saturday night that he was “delighted” to earn the victory.
“What a great night,” he said. “Now I can finally take a nap.”
Business owner Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe came in third with 1,510 votes, or 12.3 percent of the tallies.
In the relatively high-turnout suburban district on San Antonio’s North Side, incumbent Councilman John Courage secured a second term, defeating two challengers.
Courage, a retired teacher and former Alamo Colleges board member, led with 9,408 votes, or 53.6 percent, with 57 of 59 precincts counted. That gave him a sufficient lead against his chief opponent, financial planning professional Patrick Von Dohlen, 49, who got 7,136 votes, or 40.7 percent.
“I really thought I was likely to get even greater support,” Courage, 67, told the Rivard Report. “But I realize the Chick-fil-A issue, for example, was something that stimulated other people thinking this council is too liberal or not making wise decisions.”
In an interview late Saturday, Von Dohlen called Courage a “likeable, nice man” but said that “some of his deepest ideas and ideologies haven’t really been exposed yet.” He mentioned Courage’s runs against former U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith and State Sen. Donna Campbell, both Republicans.
“From a philosophical standpoint, we’re promoting smaller government, lower taxes, more freedom and a more open government that’s more responsive to the people,” said Von Dohlen, who co-founded the San Antonio Family Association, which opposes abortion and homosexuality. He called Courage’s vote against removing Chick-fil-A from the airport contract “one of the smartest votes John’s made.”
His main priorities in his second term will be continuing a “participatory budgeting program” to “empower more people in the district to have a say in how their tax dollars are spent,” he said.
He also said he wants to continue pushing for the completion of major bond projects, such as a joint senior and community center and the forthcoming Classen-Steubing Park on Hardy Oak Boulevard.
“I’m going to work even harder to help people who maybe lost faith in me or didn’t have the faith” to begin with, Courage said.
Nicholas Balderas, a 24-year-old software engineer who dropped out of the race in early April and endorsed Courage, received 837 votes, more than the third contender, personal trainer Richard Reza Versace, who got 171 votes.
Clayton Perry coasted to his second City Council term with 64 percent of the vote, or 8,558 votes. Real estate investor Reinette King trailed with 2,319 votes, or 17 percent. Pediatrician Elise Kibler got 7 percent of the vote, self-employed tutor Maria Perez had 6 percent, and Texas Workforce Commission employee Linda Montellano got 5 percent.
Perry watched election-night returns at the Barn Door. At 10:30 p.m., he was still celebrating with supporters.
“I am ecstatic,” he said. “We’re still here at Barn Door and everybody is awesome here, we’ve got some great supporters here. They’ve helped so much at the polls and during the election, both early voting and today so I can’t say enough about them.”
His first move as a re-elected councilman would be to pass a local homestead exemption, he said.
“That’s my No. 1 priority to get that done right now … I’ve been working on that for two years, I think I’m close and I’m gonna be working on it really hard this time,” he said.
Kibler, who was working earlier in the evening, said she had kept up with election results with her friends via text messages. She said the results were not surprising.
“I’m happy for [Perry],” she said.”He has a lot of support. My goal [when campaigning] was to increase awareness on social problems that I think need more city funding.”