Updated Sept. 21, 4:45 p.m. with a statement from Bexar County Party Chair Monica Ramirez Alcantara.
A day after an endorsement of city charter amendments, Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Monica Ramirez Alcantara said in a statement that the announcement had created "serious concerns" among the party’s county executive committee.
“The endorsement of the amendments — launched by the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Union — is particularly concerning because the union has publically endorsed 21 Republican candidates running in Bexar County including Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton,” she said.
Although the amendments passed at the August meeting, a majority of the 263 precinct chairs, who make of the committee, were not present and did not vote. She added due to numerous calls from members of the Bexar County Democratic Party, she’ll recommend that the proposal to endorse the charter amendments be revisited at the next meeting of the committee.
READ | News release from Bexar County Demoratic Party chair
The Bexar County Democratic Party is endorsing city charter amendments proposed by the San Antonio Professional Fire Fighters Association.
A town hall organized by the San Antonio Express-News and the University of Texas at San Antonio about the charter amendments was canceled about an hour before the event was set to take place Thursday night.
Party executives say the amendments are good for the residents while opponents of the amendments say the vote was forced. The endorsement comes a few weeks after the opposition — Secure San Antonio’s Future, also known as Go Vote No — kicked off its campaign, which has received over $1 million on donations.
Garrett Mormando, Bexar County Democratic Party secretary, said the party’s executive committee voted to endorse all the amendments.
“We strongly believe that voting yes this November is in the best interest of San Antonio,” he said. “Proposition A ensures that people-powered initiatives have the same opportunity as well-financed campaigns to be placed on the ballot and voted on by the citizens of San Antonio.”
Proposition A reduces the number of signatures needed to challenge city ordinances enacted by the City Council; proposition B limits the pay and tenure of the city manager; and proposition C allows for binding arbitration in collective bargaining negotiations between the city and fire union.
“We know that the same things that the Democratic Party knows, letting the people have a voice and using the vote to do that is the number one most important thing about being American,” fire union president Chris Steele said.
Christian Archer, a campaign manager of the Go Vote No campaign and a democrat, said Thursday’s endorsement is illegitimate.
“We never had the opportunity to even make an argument before just a very few, small group within the Democratic Party forced the issue. So what happened today was a joke.”
Archer said the vote was pushed by former party chair Manuel Medina.
“This is the former county chairman, who has a number of people that are still in the party organization that jammed it through in a hastily put together, cram-it-down-your-throat vote,” he said.
John Wiesen, a party precinct chair for Precinct 1111, backed up Archer’s claims. He said the issue of endorsing the amendments was brought up at the July meeting but tabled for being “a divisive issue.” But the issue was revisited at the August meeting when Medina had shown up with supporters.
“At the very end, after a lot of people had left already, … they brought to a vote and basically the supporter of Manuel Medina approved or endorsed the amendments,” he said.
Wiesen said it was not previously announced a vote on the endorsement would be held at the meeting.
“Yes, they won the vote to endorse it but they certainly didn’t do it in a way that seemed like it was fair to those of us that were on the other side,” he said.
Bexar County Party Chair Monica Ramirez Alcantara was not present at the endorsement Thursday and did not return calls for comment.
In a statement about the canceled town hall meeting, Express-News editorial director Ricardo Pimentel said: “This is necessary because Chris Steele, who heads the San Antonio Firefighters Association, which has pushed the amendments, withdrew hours before the event,” Pimentel said. “In reaction, Mayor Ron Nirenberg then withdrew. The Firefighters Association offered to send a substitute, District 10 City Council candidate Reinette King. However, the sponsors decided the event deserved the panelists who originally agreed to appear.”
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.