5 races to watch in San Antonio’s May 1 election

From a mayoral rematch to 2 open council seats, these are expected to be the most competitive matchups

Races to watch in Bexar County for 2020
Races to watch in Bexar County for 2020 (KSAT)

Editor’s note: Find more election news, resources and results on our Vote 2021 page.

In one week, San Antonio residents will begin to cast their votes in an election to decide the mayor and all 10 city council seats.

More than 80 candidates are running for 11 seats on the crowded ballot. (See the full ballot here.)

Two of the seats are open because the current representatives — District 3′s Rebecca Viagran and District 5′s Shirley Gonzales — have reached the limit of four terms. The remaining incumbents hope their fundraising advantage sets them apart from their challengers.

But with two open seats and several races offering voters more than 10 options, many could be headed to overtime in the form of a runoff election.

If no candidate in a race receives more than 50% of the vote on May 1, then the top two candidates in that race will move to a heads-up runoff election on June 5.

Beyond those races, voters will also decide on Proposition B, a measure that would take collective bargaining rights power from police officers and change how the city would negotiate future contracts with the police union.

Here are the key races we’re watching on May 1:

Mayor

(From left) Greg Brockhouse and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. (KSAT)

This election features a 2019 rematch between Mayor Ron Nirenberg and former city councilman Greg Brockhouse. That year, Brockhouse was able to force a runoff that Nirenberg ultimately survived by roughly 2,000 votes to secure his second term.

Brockhouse, a conservative, knows he’s the underdog in this race, he previously told KSAT. Nirenberg has outraised and outspent Brockhouse in the race, and the mayor has embraced the public-facing role he has taken during the coronavirus pandemic began, which has resulted in consistently high approval ratings among voters.

Unlike in 2019, Brockhouse does not have an endorsement from the city’s firefighters or police union after both groups opted to stay out of the mayor’s race. Still, Brockhouse has been actively campaigning with several in-person events, firing off press releases about his policy initiatives and hammering Nirenberg for his refusal to participate in a debate with him.

The two front runners, along with candidate Denise Gutierrez-Homer, will appear on KSAT this week for a mayoral forum. Here’s how to watch.

City Council District 2

In 2019, councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan narrowly won her seat in District 2 after a dramatic race.

After the May election, Andrews-Sullivan came out second, beating out third-place finisher Denise Gutierrez-Homer by only 59 votes. Though she trailed Keith Toney, she ended up besting him in the June runoff by roughly 200 votes.

Andrews-Sullivan has another crowded race this year, with eleven other candidates vying for the spot against her, including activist Pharoah Clark and Jalen McKee Rodriguez, who previously worked as Andrews-Sullivan’s director of communications.

With stiff competition in this district, a runoff is likely.

City Council District 3

Will District 3 stay within the family?

With term limits setting in, councilwoman Rebecca Viagran cannot seek re-election in District 3. Her younger sister, Phyllis Viagran, hopes to be the next person to represent the district.

Phyllis Viagran had been working for Visit SA before she was furloughed due to the pandemic, according to her campaign website. She now works as a community outreach coordinator for Older Adults Technology Services.

Phyllis Viagran has the fundraising edge in the race, but a dozen people are running for the open seat, including former state representative Tomas Uresti.

City Council District 5

This is another open council seat up for grabs as Shirley Gonzales is finishing up her fourth and final term. Eleven people are running for the position.

Norberto Geremy Landin, who is the vice president of operations for STAAMP Allergy, has raised the most money in the race. Terri Castillo, a housing organizer, trails closely behind him, finance records showed.

But this race also features two current and former members of Harlandale ISD’s board of trustees, Ricardo Moreno and Jesse “Jay” Alaniz.

With no clear frontrunner in this race, it is likely to go to a runoff.

Proposition B

Perhaps the most contentious campaign in this election is over Proposition B, which would undo police officers’ collective bargaining rights.

If voters approve it, the police union would have less power when negotiating a contract with the city. Proponents of the measure say that it would make the negotiation process more public and allow the city to seek more accountability for officers who have been fired for misconduct, but have won their jobs back through the appeals process.

Critics of Prop B, which include the San Antonio Police Officers Association, have said that without collective bargaining, police officers would see their benefits negatively affected, hindering the city’s ability to recruit and retain quality officers.

Both perspectives were heard during a debate on Prop B hosted by KSAT, San Antonio Report and Bexar Facts.

Recent polling on Prop B shows that the race is “wide open,” making the final days of the campaign crucial for both sides as they try to inform and win over voters.

Early voting will begin on Monday, and Election Day is slated for May 1.

Read more on our Vote 2021 page:


About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.