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City Election Moves San Antonio Politics To The Left

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio

Ron Nirenberg’s campaign headquarters was a one-time car lot on Broadway across from Maverick Park. This is where former mayors Phil Hardberger and Julian Castro also set up shop and forged paths to the mayor’s office – and now it was Nirenberg’s turn.

At 7PM Saturday when the early voting totals were posted online by the Bexar County Election’s Office it was clear that Nirenberg’s victory was almost a certainty. And as Election Day ballot results came in his margin grew, ending the night with 55 percent of the vote against Ivy Taylor’s 45 percent.

The election watch event quickly turned into a party and a celebration.

As Nirenberg took the stage to speak to his frenzied supporters he offered a gracious salute to Taylor.

“Well, I first I want to thank Ivy Taylor our mayor for her years of service. It’s not easy to do the work that we do as any family member can attest. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of energy and I want to thank our mayor for the service to our city,” he told the crowd.

Nirenberg’s victory over Taylor was unexpected by almost all outside of his campaign. And Nirenberg told the gathering that the key to winning was old fashioned retail politicking which required sweat, shoe leather and talking to people one on one.

“This campaign was won at the doors – this was won on the phones – this was won door to door – to make sure that every San Antonian got a chance to bring their voice to the table—cheer—and tonight to the voters – they got it right,” Nirenberg said.

Former Mayor Julian Castro had endorsed Nirenberg. He said Nirenberg’s victory along with many of the city council races is proof that San Antonio is a progressive city that wants progressive leadership.

“There’s no question that there’s been a shift to the left. The days when conservative talk radio could lambast progressives and liberals and think that there was no consequence for that – those days are over. This city is growing. It’s changing. It’s becoming more cosmopolitan and it’s ready to support leaders who can work with everyone.  This city is not in the pocket of right wing radio or conservative politics. It’s a more center left city than that,” Castro said.

However, was Castro’s resignation as San Antonio’s Mayor to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Administration that created the opening for Taylor’s initial appointment as Mayor. She then scuttled several of Castro’s projects including the launch of local rail with Streetcar and city annexations. Taylor is a registered Democrat but ironically she was seen as a conservative leader especially on social issues. A point made clear recently after she referred to the homeless as broken people who needed a relationship with god.  

Castro also said Nirenberg’s strong performance at the ballot box is a reaction to the hard right turn in national politics with Republican President Donald Trump.  And he said this was also a rejection of what some called mudslinging tactics by the Taylor campaign – with the sarcastic “LiberalRon” website.

“Unfortunately the Taylor campaign attacked Ron as liberal and mocked him for some of his supporters – it looks like that backfired,” he said.

Nirenberg will enter the Mayor’s office with a city council that of the 10 seats will have SIX new members.  He said his first priority is dealing with transportation.

“A mass transit system – one of the options is rail. SATomorrow clearly outlined mass transit as a priority for the next 30 years for San Antonio. We can’t afford to wait another generation before we look for the future of transportation. So one of my priorities is to develop a strategy to get there,” Nirenberg said.

During the campaign Nirenberg was critical of Taylor’s record on public safety and the labor contract that the police officers association won under Taylor.  He called it bad for the city’s overall budget. But what happens moving forward?

“My goal – regardless of benefits and salaries – is to make sure we have contracts that are structurally balanced – that we can grow those departments as the city grows – that’s my only concern. I’ll let those folks that have to deal with the specifics  of benefits and salaries to work that out – so that that’s a contract that everyone can live with – that we can afford -  but my only goal for the city is to have a structurally balanced department – that’s it,” he said.

Nirenberg also promised continued support for PreK4SA and robust opposition to the state anti-sanctuary cities law which some have called the “show me your papers law.” Taylor was opposed to a lawsuit challenging the law but was out voted by the city council.

“We have decided we are moving forward with the lawsuit because that’s the next course of action for a law that is bad for San Antonio and bad for Texas,” Nirenberg said.

Nirenberg’s campaign slogan was “The City You Deserve.” What kind of city San Antonio deserves will become apparent after Nirenberg and the new councilmembers are sworn in .

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi