Radio listeners heard one debate between Mayor Ivy Taylor and challenger Leticia Van de Putte on Texas Public Radio Monday afternoon. Viewers of the live streamed version supplied by NOWCastSA experienced something a bit more dramatic.
For those watching on the Internet, it's obvious that tensions are running high in what is seen as a tight, increasingly polarized race for mayor.
(UPDATE: Click here for a recap of mayoral candidates' interactions at the final mayoral debate at WOAI News Radio.)
The on-air program had ended, but the NowCastSA cameras were still rolling afterwards as Taylor declined to shake hands with Van de Putte after the debate. Taylor then leaned over to Van de Putte, whispered something inaudible into her ear and again refused to shake hands. Van de Putte seemed surprised and caught off guard, and responded by saying, or at least mouthing, a single word: "Wow."
After the debate, Taylor's campaign staff relayed what the mayor told Van de Putte:
"I think your attacks on my family are crossing the line."
Later, she told the Rivard Report and tweeted, "Here in Texas, if a person attacks the family for political gain and then smiles and extends their hand, you don't shake their hand."
The attacks on Taylor and her husband, Rodney, stem from a November 2014 shooting that took place outside Rodney's bail bond business and his subsequent refusal to file a complaint against the alleged shooter with the San Antonio Police Department. There are different versions of the shooting, which wounded two individuals. Whether those individuals were the target of the shooting, or passers-by and the bail bond business was the target, is not clear.
The issue is further complicated by anti-Taylor statements made by Mike Helle, the president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, which has suspended collective bargaining talks with the City and had endorsed Van de Putte in the mayor's race.
"I would not try to cast aspersions on the character of (Van de Putte's) family or her husband," Taylor said. "(This) was a random drive-by shooting, my understanding is, involving gang members and it just happened to occur in front of (my husband's) business."
She went on to say that she thought there was plenty of cause for the police to pursue the shooter without her or Rodney's statement on the shooting.
"The Taylors refuse to just sign a complaint that their car was shot up and their business was shot up," Van de Putte said. "We want San Antonians to be good neighbors, to help each other. What does it say when the mayor and her family ... refuse to help put violent criminals (in jail) and get them off the streets?"
Taylor dismissed the topic as a tactic to "take focus off the issues at hand."
"I'm committed to the safety of our citizens and have always acted in a manner reflective of that," she added.
Each candidate was asked a series of questions by David Martin Davies, host of Texas Public Radio's "The Source", TPR News Director Shelley Kofler, and Express-News Columnist Gilbert Garcia. The trio covered affordable housing, 2017 bond priorities, and whether San Antonio is ready for another major-league sports team. Candidates were asked about their involvement in various controversies, which sparked heated remarks from each side.
Campaign strategies have become increasingly negative in the lead up to early voting, which started today and ends June 9. Click here for voting information. The final vote will be held Saturday, June 13.
Taylor continued to criticize Van de Putte's police union endorsement that stalled collective bargaining negotiations.
"Do you believe they are expecting anything in return?" she asked. "And given our campaign finance limits, do you think it's appropriate for them to be spending (so much) on your campaign?"
It's a question Van de Putte has answered often this year. The police and fire fighter union contract is, arguably, one of the most important fiscal issues facing the future of San Antonio. (Read more here.)
"They know that I'm an effective leader, they also know that when I put my foot down, I put my foot down," she said. "I don't make empty promises ... What I did say is that our first responders would be treated with respect – that we would get back to the table, that we would hit the reset button."
She said she would work with the unions to get public safety costs back down to, or below, 66% of the general budget.
Catch the whole debate at NOWCastSA.com:
The Clean Air, Clean Water, Healthy City forum at Trinity University’s Chapman Center Auditorium Monday evening will host back-to-back Q&A sessions with each candidate and host Peter Bella, executive director of Texans for Responsible Energy Development and former Natural Resources Director of the Alamo Area Council of Governments. Van de Putte is on at 6 p.m., Taylor at 7 p.m. RSVP here.
On Wednesday, June 3, the candidates will meet at WOAI News Radio (1200 AM) for a forum at 9 a.m. that will broadcast live with host Jim Forsyth.
This post was originally published on Monday, June 1.
*Featured/top image: From left: Mayor Ivy Taylor, former Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, and TPR Managing Editor and Senior Reporter Shelley Kofler during the mayoral debate. Screenshot of NOWCastSA's live stream.