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Final: San Antonians Vote Out Two Incumbents In 2021 City Council Runoff Election

San Antonio City Hall chambers reopened in May 2021 following renovations.
Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
San Antonio City Hall chambers reopened in May 2021 following renovations.

San Antonio voters across five city council districts turned out in small numbers for the 2021 runoff election.

Updated Saturday, June 5 at 9:50 p.m.

District 1

Mario Bravo unseated incumbent District 1 City Councilman Roberto Treviño on Saturday’s runoff election. While Treviño led the vote by about 45% in the May election, he lost by 539 votes in the runoff.

Bravo has worked as a political campaign manager and a public relations specialist and is currently a project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund.

District 1 encompasses a large portion of downtown San Antonio and the north central portion of the city. In a TPR candidate survey, Bravo said he appreciated that District 1 residents are “more civically engaged than the residents of any other district.”

He said, if elected, he would focus on how to make downtown more livable.

“That means making downtown more walkable and vibrant, and supporting the expansion and promotion of more unique culture and entertainment in the downtown area. This will increase local interest in living in and visiting downtown as well as attract more high income tourists,” Bravo said.

This would have been Treviño’s final eligible term as a council member.

District 2

First-time City Council candidate Jalen McKee-Rodriguez has won the seat for District 2 on the San Antonio City Council. At age 26, he will be the youngest person on the city council and is the first openly gay man elected to the council.

McKee-Rodriguez will be the seventh person to represent the district in just as many years. He briefly worked as communications director in the office of District 2 incumbent Jada Andrews-Sullivan near the start of her term in 2019. He is currently a high school math teacher.

The district has had six council people in the last seven years. Former San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor was the last person to be elected for more than one full term.

Since then, the seat has been filled by Keith Toney, Alan Warrick, Cruz Shaw, Art Hall and currently Jada Andrews-Sullivan.

In a TPR candidate survey, Mckee-Rodriguez acknowledged that one of District 2’s largest issues is “recidivism and lack of access to re-entry services.”

“District 2 is a large and diverse district, but we’re connected in so many ways. As a teacher, I’ve seen firsthand the talent that exists in our community’s classrooms — the creators, entrepreneurs, artists, and leaders of our future,” he said.

District 3

Phyllis Viagran — sister of sitting District 3 council member Rebecca Viagran who could not run again because of term limits — defeated her challenger Tomas Uresti in San Antonio’s runoff election. Viagran received 59.85% of the vote.

Uresti is a former state representative for District 118, which includes some of the council district. He’s also the brother of former State Sen. Carlos Uresti, who is in prison after being convicted of 11 felonies.

Tomas Uresti lost his statehouse seat in the 2018 primary just weeks after his brother’s conviction. He ran unsuccessfully for a state senate seat later that year.

District 3 spans 84 square miles spread out on the South and Southeast sides of San Antonio.

According to a TPR candidate survey, Viagran was born and raised in District 3 and has worked as a trainer at Older Adults Technology Services (Senior Planet) since June 2020. She says that food insecurity is a significant issue facing many District 3 residents.

“I would like to work with Metro Health on the initiatives they already have in place to help end the food desert that exists on the Southside. Also working with the business community to bring more healthy corner stores to the area,” Viagran said in her survey response.

District 5

The District 5 San Antonio City Council runoff race this Saturday pitted an affordable housing organizer against a former civil servant.

With all the votes counted in the District 5 City Council runoff, Teri Castillo had 57% of the vote against challenger Rudy Lopez.

Castillo finished on top of a field of 11 candidates in the May election, which she said was because her campaign policies align with the needs of working class neighborhoods.

She said the key to ending generational poverty is to keep people in affordable homes they can pay off.

"When we look at wealth-building, property ownership is a huge component of that," she said.

Lopez is a retired San Antonio Police Department civilian employee and president of the Thompson Neighborhood Association.

Access to higher education, better paying jobs, and keeping neighborhoods affordable have been top issues in the race for the district, which sits west of downtown.

Residents say they are worried about gentrification and rising property taxes.

“The City of San Antonio has a responsibility to incentivize deeply affordable housing. Our public money should serve the city's people, and we must end the passing of the tax burden onto our working families while developers make out like bandits,” Castillo said in her survey response.

District 9

In a runoff that saw both low turnout and two of three incumbent council people defeated, District 9 stands out. Incumbent Councilman John Courage defeated conservative challenger Patrick Von Dohlen with 53% of the vote.

Courage was forced to a runoff coming up 3 points short of victory in the May 1 general election, but he picked up more of the vote after shedding three challengers.

Courage has always been a strange fit for District 9. The conservative, mega-church populated area encompassing San Antonio’s North central suburbs has trended conservative for years while Courage consistently finds himself on the left side of council arguments.

“I've told people that I run right down the middle because I want to serve everybody. It doesn't matter if you're Democrat, Republican, liberal or progressive. There's no Democratic, Republican way of filling a pothole,” Courage said in response to early results on Election Night.

He was elected to council in 2017. He ran in an open field of mostly conservative candidates when former councilman — and former Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce CEO — Joe Krier decided not to seek reelection.

His opponent, Patrick Von Dohlen, is a conservative firebrand, who in the past has openly opposed same-sex unions and police reform and has said he wants to get back to basics, business and smaller government.

While Von Dohlen would have won with the number of votes he had in any other council race tonight, District 9 led the city with nearly triple that of any other district.

Jerry Clayton, Joey Palacios, Bonnie Petrie, Brian Kirkpatrick and Paul Flahive contributed to this story.

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