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Coming Up: One Councilmember, In Densely Populated Ballot

Ryan Loyd
TPR News

The San Antonio City Council will hold a special election on Tuesday, as part of the midterm cycle, to pick one councilmember for Mayor Ivy Taylor's former seat. The person elected will finish out Taylor's term, which ends in May with all the other councilmembers’ seats.

Six candidates initially threw their hats in the ring. They, in the order they appear on the ballot, are Norris Tyrone Darden, Keith A. Toney, Ntando McIntosh, Alan E. Warrick, Dori L. Brown, and Elmo Aycock. Brown later withdrew from the race on Aug. 25, according to the City Clerk's office.

It should be noted that Toney is the current councilman in the district, having been appointed to fill the seat this summer when Taylor was selected major by her peers on the dais to succeed Julián Castro. The former three-time mayor moved to Washington, D.C. in July, to take charge as United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Four of the five remaining candidates, with the exception of Aycock, who did not return calls or requests for an interview, talked with Texas Public Radio about why they wanted that open spot on the city council.

Norris Darden, 35, Educator 
One big belief: The city government is the people’s government.
One crucial focus: Education.
In his own words: “I don't have a political background. My family doesn’t have a political background. I'm just a little old kid from the East Side of San Antonio. I grew up in the East Side Boys and Girls Club, SAISD. [I] don’t have an Ivy League pedigree, but I do feel like I have a heart for the community.”

Keith Toney, 62, School Liaison Officer
One big want: It’s vital that people stay or return to the East Side of San Antonio.
One crucial focus: Education.
In his own words: “We want to keep children in school; we want to get them in school and keep them in school. But there are many factors that contribute to the high dropout rate, and we want to go ahead and address that. We want to start from Pre-k though 16, all the way through college, want to track them and have the resources for them right here, right here in District 2.”

Ntando McIntosh, 38, Air Force Vet
One big motto: Service before self.
One crucial focus: Realizing potential of San Antonio, as an outsider (he is originally from New York).
In his own words: “I would like to think I'm a visionary, I don't like clichés, but [I’m an] out of the box thinker. I think why Ivy Taylor was successful in what she has accomplished was that she didn't grow up here. She didn't have an entrenched vision that things can't change. And when you’re an outsider, you can see things a little bit better. Maybe not better, but you see it differently. You say hey, this place has potential.”

Alan Warrick, 33, Small Business Owner
One big dream: Wants more people-to-people engagement and involvement.
One crucial Focus: Urban area development, changing stereotypes.
In his own words: “I think it's just a longstanding stigma. When it’s a shooting, it's on the East Side versus when it happens on Marbach, it’s on Marbach. It’s not on the West Side. Or when it happens in the Medical Center, it’s on Callaghan. They really make it a point of labeling it as ‘the East Side.’ I understand there are problems in the part of the city I grew up, in but I think it's really no different than any other side of town.”

Reaching voters, however, might prove difficult for this field. According to political consultant Kelton Morgan, the November ballot is filled with so many other names that he thinks it’s harder for a candidate for city council to get a second look, especially in an area of town known for lower voter participation.

"They’re competing for people’s time and attention with Abbott and Davis and the Lieutenant Governor’s race and all the legislative races on the ballot. In a normal May election, they’ve pretty much got the arena to themselves,” said Morgan. “If you’re a candidate in a race like this, it actually makes it harder, certainly makes it a whole lot more expensive. The universe of likely voters you have to reach is exponentially larger in a gubernatorial November election, than an off year May election.”

Last May, nearly every member of the city council ran a race, except for District 1’s Diego Bernal, who was unopposed. The ballot last year, while not as ambitious as this year’s November ballot, included San Antonio City Council elections, school board elections, and several special elections.

The number of registered voters who cast a ballot in last May’s election was just shy of 7 percent. Julián Castro captured more than 29,000 votes in his race, winning by 66.51 percent. In one of the most contentious races of that season, Ron Nirenberg battled Rolando Briones. A margin of 314 votes in favor of Nirenberg forced a runoff election between the two candidates, with Nirenberg winning in June. Only 2,229 people cast a ballot for Ivy Taylor in District 2 in May.

The last midterms, in November 2010, did not feature city council elections for San Antonio. Hollywood Park voters cast ballots for Place 1 and Place 2 spots, with several hundred people turning out to vote. A total of 34 percent of registered voters participated in that midterm election.