District 2 runoff election heating up with endorsements, alleged homophobia

Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, who is gay, says pastors have told congregants a vote for him is a sin

SAN ANTONIO – The District 2 city council runoff election is heating up with both endorsements and allegations of homophobia.

Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan is attempting to fend off her former staff member, Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, in a race that has had a personal undertone since the very beginning. McKee-Rodriguez, who is now a high school teacher, said he left the councilwoman’s staff because of retaliation he faced after telling her about issues with another staff member’s treatment of him as an openly gay man, something Andrews-Sullivan denies.

Both survived a 12-way election on May 1, with McKee-Rodriguez taking 26% of their vote and Andrews-Sullivan getting 17%, and their subsequent head-to-head runoff has been one of the most closely-watched local races.

Now, accusations of homophobia are once again turning up, though they’re being heavily disputed.

McKee-Rodriguez tweeted on Tuesday that, “There are pastors and church leaders telling their congregants that a vote for me is a sin... and the Councilwoman is enabling that rhetoric and behavior because she benefits from it.”

While the tweet did not name anyone specific, McKee-Rodriguez told KSAT he had also posted something similar on his personal Facebook page and named two pastors in the comments. He has since made the Facebook post private, but the tweet remains up.

“Those who are watching, who look to me as a role-model, who look at me and see someone breaking a barrier, if I was silent right now, what does that tell them when they’re facing adversity, when they’re being challenged, when, you know, they’re being told that their love is wrong?” McKee-Rodriguez said.

McKee-Rodriguez told KSAT his campaign team had heard from voters that their pastor, Jonathan Ellis at the Conquerors Assembly Church in District 1, had told them that a vote for him would be equivalent to a sin. Ellis vehemently denied saying that in a Facebook Live video.

“I did not say that, have not said that, have no reason to say that, especially about somebody I don’t know,” Ellis said.

McKee-Rodriguez also told KSAT that he had heard that the president of the Baptist Ministers Union, Patrick Jones, had made homophobic comments about him. Jones also made a Facebook Live video, in which he said McKee-Rodriguez’s “lifestyle” was not the reason he couldn’t support his candidacy.

“It had solely to do with this young man has done nothing in the community. He has no footprints across our community. He’s done absolutely zero,” Jones said in a Facebook Live video of his own.

Both Ellis and Jones appeared Thursday as part of a group of pastors giving their personal endorsement to Andrews-Sullivan in the runoff.

“Because Jada Andrews-Sullivan has shown flawless execution with unmatched results that has significantly shaped the core of District 2 and reinvigorated a broad-mindedness about community functions on how District 2 may continue to flourish and become a microcosm and the standard for all of San Antonio,” said Pastor Jeffrey Garner of New Jerusalem Baptist Church.

Rev. Jerry Dailey, the president of Community of Churches for Social Action, said the pastors were not there representing any organizations and that their individual endorsements had come out of a debate forum last Thursday, and “it had nothing to do with the statement whatsoever, regardless to what anyone has said.”

Andrews-Sullivan welcomed the pastors’ endorsement Friday as a “blessing.” She declined to directly address McKee-Rodriguez’s tweet, though.

“What we’re doing is we’re staying positive,” she told KSAT. “Our community deserves positivity, our community deserves uplifting, our community deserves to be a part of the conversation and not to have negativity.”

Andrews-Sullivan said she has also been endorsed by the San Antonio Apartment Association and the San Antonio Board of Realtors. Campaign literature also boasts of endorsements from several “neighborhoods.”

While the show of support from the faith community could prove crucial for Andrews-Sullivan, McKee-Rodriguez has his own list of endorsements, which includes the progressive group, Texas Organizing Project, and high-profile figures like Julian and Joaquin Castro.

Early voting will continue on Saturday, May 29 and Tuesday, June 1. Election day is Saturday, June 5.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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