Bexar County commissioner fears new precinct boundaries could bring new opponent

Pct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert unsuccessfully opposed a push by Pct 1 Commissioner Rebecca Clay-Flores to switch 3 voter precincts into his district

SAN ANTONIO – A seemingly routine county redistricting process turned contentious Tuesday as a Bexar County commissioner accused a colleague of possibly putting a political opponent into his district.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert, who will be up for re-election in the March 2022 primary when the new precinct map will first be used, said he was unaware of Precinct 1 Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores’s plan to push three voter precincts, containing nearly 5,200 of her residents, into his district.

Despite his objections, Clay-Flores’s effort to swap three voter precincts passed as part of the final map with only Calvert and Precinct 3 Commissioner Trish DeBerry objecting.

The county’s precinct map determines the representation for commissioners, constables, and justices of the peace. The map had to be redrawn because there was too large of a population deviation -- 16.7% -- between Precinct 2 on the West Side and Northwest Side, and Precinct 3 on the North Side, based on the new population numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census.

This redistricting map was the original draft commissioners took up at their Nov. 9 meeting. Though this draft did not touch the borders of Precincts 1 or 4, an amendment by Pct 1 Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores shifted nearly 5,200 people from her district into Precinct 4.

However, Precinct 1, which covers the South and Southwest Sides, and Precinct 4, which covers the East and Southeast Sides, were within the required 10% deviation and weren’t legally required to be changed. The map with which commissioners started their discussion on Tuesday did not touch their boundaries.

Clay-Flores, though, pushed to switch voter precincts 1089, 1124, and 1115 from her district into Calvert’s. The move shifts nearly 5,200 people, bringing both county precincts closer to the “ideal” size of 502,331 residents.

Pct 1 Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores successfully pushed to swap voter precincts 1089, 1115, and 1124 from her district into Precinct 4. The area includes nearly 5,200 residents, she said. (KSAT)

Calvert, though, said he had only heard of Clay-Flores’s plan that morning and objected to it.

“I have not had a chance to review the 5,168 voters, not the least of which I could have some sort of primary opponent that enters into my district. So it is not a friendly amendment,” Calvert said from the dais.

“So I didn’t introduce it as a friendly amendment,” Clay-Flores retorted. “With all due respect, Commissioner Calvert, I have been trying to reach out to you.”

Clay-Flores said she had been trying unsuccessfully to reach Calvert to discuss the issue with him, while Calvert said he didn’t have any calls or texts from her. Both commissioners acknowledged at least a brief conversation, though Calvert said the details were different from what Clay-Flores put forward on Tuesday.

Asked by KSAT after the meeting if he believed there was someone specific in the newly shifted areas whom would want to run against him, Calvert said there was. He would not, however, provide a name.

“It’s very curious and peculiar. But we’re going to be fine,” Calvert said.

The new map had to be completed ahead of Saturday, Nov. 13, when candidates can begin filing for the March primary. However, attorneys hired by the county to help with redistricting said the map could be changed for a future election cycle.

Calvert unsuccessfully argued to keep Clay-Flores’s plan on the back burner until they could take it up sometime in the future.

“I’m on the ballot. You are not on the ballot,” he told Clay-Flores on the dais. “And I would appreciate the respect to work this out at a later time.”

Clay-Flores told reporters after the meeting that she had no knowledge of any Calvert opponents. The Precinct 1 commissioner said she was trying to move the county precinct border to get her population closer to the ideal size of 502,331 residents.

“I’m always trying to do the best for Precinct 1. I want to be more equitable,” Clay-Flores said.

However, prior to Clay-Flores’s proposal, Precinct 1 was already within 6,244 residents of the ideal size -- the closest of any of the county precincts. Precinct 4, though, would have had the biggest deviation from the ideal precinct population with 25,219 fewer residents.

Precincts 2 and 3, which were the original focus of the redistricting effort, had 7,630 and 11,345 residents above the ideal size, respectively, based on the original map draft that commissioners discussed.

The original draft of a redistricting map commissioners considered would have kept Precincts 1 and 4 boundaries the same, as the map would have stayed within the required 10 percent deviation. Precinct 1 was already closest to the "ideal" population size prior to Clay-Flores's amendment.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez put forward an amendment to shift an additional voter precinct into Precinct 3, but it was unclear if that was already part of the map or not.

The new precinct map also puts the previously split Helotes almost entirely in Precinct 3, short only 321 of its residents. Leon Valley, which was also previously split between Precincts 2 and 3, now rests entirely in Precinct 2.

The final map with all the amendments had not been released as of air time.


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About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.