Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Bexar County Elections Department data shows that Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s support in the May 4 city elections came largely from voters in the urban core within Loop 410, while Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) performed better in suburban precincts in City Council districts with higher turnout.
Nirenberg received 48.66 percent of the total vote to Brockhouse’s 45.57 percent, with the mayor getting more votes than Brockhouse in six out of 10 Council districts: districts 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 8. A runoff is set for June 8.
“At first blush … the ultimate results show is that we have a city divided,” said political consultant Colin Strother.
Nirenberg got just 50 percent of the vote in District 8, which he represented for four years before becoming mayor in 2017, but was able to hold onto substantial portions of District 9, where Brockhouse had 53 percent of the vote, and District 10, where the councilman claimed 52 percent. Those three North Side districts had the highest voter turnout, according to the election data.
“Mayor Nirenberg held the middle,” said Kelton Morgan, his campaign manager, referring to the city’s politically moderate population. “Shrinking as it may be at a national level, in San Antonio it still seems strong.”
Meanwhile, Brockhouse performed well in his own district, pulling in 56 percent of the District 6 vote.
“That tells you that the people [who] knew these candidates best gave a significant advantage to Greg,” said Matt Mackowiak, a consultant for the councilman’s campaign. “I think that’s pretty telling.”
Districts 2, 4, and 6 have runoff elections for their City Council seats. Nirenberg was able to gain more votes in District 2 than Brockhouse, but not a majority. Brockhouse, who used to work for a former Council member in District 4, pulled in 48 percent of that district’s vote compared to Nirenberg’s 44 percent. It’s unclear how those runoffs will impact the mayoral race, but political observers expect higher turnout in those districts.
Several precincts saw fewer than 20 voters cast ballots during the early voting period and on May 4, and there are still mail-in ballots trickling in, according to the Bexar County Elections Department.
‘Grow the Vote’
“They can spin it however they want … the fact that 52 percent voted against Nirenberg is a very bad sign,” Mackowiak said. “They’ve got a big problem in that regard.”
Meanwhile, he said, there are still voters out there that “just don’t know who Greg is. … Now it’s a question of who can turnout that vote again” and inspire more support.
Seven other candidates on the ballot received a total of 5.76 percent of the vote. John Velasquez came in a distant third with 1.61 percent (1,643 votes) and has said that he’ll likely be supporting Nirenberg in the runoff. Tim Atwood and Antonio Diaz were also able to gather more than 1,000 votes.
“Anyone who voted against Nirenberg is a potential Brockhouse supporter,” Mackowiak said. “I don’t know where they grow the vote.”
Morgan pointed to groups backing affordable housing and transportation initiatives, the LGBTQIA community, and environmental groups as having criticized Nirenberg for not being as aggressive as they’d like in his long-term planning efforts and policies, but under Brockhouse those initiatives and policies may become weaker or disappear.
“There are numerous constituent groups we expect to be more motivated in the runoff now that it’s crystal clear what and how much is at stake,” Morgan said.
Morgan said the best way to get traditional Nirenberg constituencies out during early voting and on election day will be the old-fashioned “shoe leather” campaign – knocking on doors with a re-energized team.