Scott Ball / Rivard Report
"Liberal Ron" wants to stop job growth, water supply projects, bring the "nanny state" to San Antonio, and "save the bats," according to the website www.liberalron.com paid for by Mayor Ivy Taylor's re-election campaign.
It's the most aggressive, public shot fired so far by either side ahead of the June 10 runoff election between Taylor and Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8).
Taylor's campaign consultant Colin Strother confirmed Thursday that they are "absolutely" responsible for the site.
"Unlike the Nirenberg campaign, when we do stuff, we put our name on it – we take ownership of it and that's what we did with this," Strother told the Rivard Report. "They've already have been posting and sharing things on Facebook without owning it."
The website offers several parody items including "Nirenberg Unveils New Campaign Slogan, Regrets Old One," a special offer for "Official 'Liberal Ron' flip flops," and a countdown until new content will be posted. The main theme is that Nirenberg has changed position on issues like the Vista Ridge water pipeline and Mission Trails rezoning case.
"It's been a very serious campaign thus far and we just thought we’d lighten it up and have a little fun,” Strother said.
Kelton Morgan, Nirenberg's campaign manager, isn't laughing.
"I get that desperate people do desperate things, but this kind of 12-year-old, playground bully tactic is ridiculous," Morgan told the Rivard Report. "And the mayor should be embarrassed. The people of San Antonio certainly are embarrassed for her, that’s one reason 58% of them don’t want her to be mayor anymore.”
Taylor collected 42% of the vote in the May 6 general election, while Nirenberg finished with 37%.
Nirenberg was recently endorsed by several prominent Democratic figures including former Mayor and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), and former District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal who is now a state representative. Taylor has received an endorsement from former Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
"Liberal Ron" pushes partisan politics even further into the middle of a supposedly non-partisan municipal race. Both candidates claim to want to keep it a non-partisan race and represent all San Antonians, no matter their political affiliation.
Taylor's campaign has purchased several radio spots to promote the website on WOAI and KTSA radio stations, both of which fall squarely on the conservative end of the political spectrum.
"We're buying in places that have the highest ratings" and biggest audience, Strother said, who anticipates buying even more spots during drive-time. "Those are the two big dogs."
This isn't the first digital tactic in the Taylor-Nirenberg battle. In December last year, local tech entrepreneur Brad Parscale purchased RonForSA.org and redirected traffic to Mayor Ivy Taylor’s re-election website, VoteIvy.com.
“We knew absolutely nothing about this. Parscale did this entirely on his own,” Taylor campaign spokesman Greg Jefferson told the Rivard Report at the time. Then later, he added, “Since we didn’t ask Parscale to do this, it’s not our place to ask him to undo it. If Ron’s campaign is upset about it, they should contact Parscale.”
Parscale stopped the redirect soon after media reports of the cyber trick, as did whomever purchased IvyForSA.org.
IvyForSA.com redirects to President Donald Trump's Twitter account.
When running for the District 8 spot in 2013, Nirenberg's campaign purchased www.rolandobriones.com, which labeled his opponent Rolando Briones as unethical and called into question his political affiliations, according to an archived column by Brian Chasnoff for the San Antonio Express-News.
As for the "flip-flops," Nirenberg did say during a during a recent event at the project site that “knowing what we know now,” he would have voted “no” on the Mission Trails rezoning case.
Taylor supported the zoning change, too, but she was out of town for the Council vote. She recently told the Rivard Report that she still agrees with the zoning change that displaced at least 100 people to make way for a luxury apartment complex.
Nirenberg’s criticism of contract changes and transparency issues involved in the Vista Ridge water pipeline, even though he voted in favor of the project, Taylor has said, is also cause for concern. The Councilman is supportive of the water supply project, but wants greater oversight of the project.
Early voting begins on Tuesday, May 30 and ends on June 6. For voting locations and times, click here.
Editor's note: The headline of this article has been updated for clarity.