Councilman John Courage announces campaign for mayor in early start to 2025 race

Mayor Ron Nirenberg terms out in May 2025, leaving the seat open for challengers

SAN ANTONIO – The next City of San Antonio election may be more than 15 months away, but the race for the wide-open mayor’s seat is already beginning.

Councilman John Courage (D9) announced his campaign for mayor Thursday afternoon in front of City Hall.

Though both he and Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6) had previously confirmed to KSAT that they planned to run for the seat in the May 2025 election, Courage is the first to make it official by filing paperwork to appoint a treasurer for a mayoral campaign.

“The early bird catches the worm,” he told reporters after his announcement.

With Mayor Ron Nirenberg terming out in the spring after his fourth, two-year term, the mayor’s seat will be wide open for the first time since Phil Hardberger left office in 2009 when there was a two-term limit.

Courage isn’t alone in eying the opportunity. At least three other council members are considering taking a shot.

Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) is widely expected to run and has publicly hinted at a campaign since just after the 2023 election. He has not confirmed his plans, though, and told KSAT on Thursday that he expects to make a decision in April, after the primaries.

Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4) says she is interested but “won’t be making an announcement any time soon.” Her father’s health problems added an element of uncertainty into her consideration, she said.

Though Cabello Havrda has confirmed she plans to run, she doesn’t “feel like it’s really the right time.”

“I need to wait a little bit longer,” she said Thursday. “Again, you know, we’re focusing on fundraising, getting the team, getting the machine, the mechanism ready to be able to do it.”

Kelton Morgan, a political consultant who worked on Nirenberg’s council campaigns and first two campaigns for mayor, also pointed to timing. He said mayoral campaigns typically kick off the December or January immediately before a May election.

He called Courage’s decision to start roughly a year sooner “incredibly too early.”

“There are certain immutable laws of political physics, and one of them is that once you make the big splash, then you have to maintain that level of enthusiasm and presence and all that,” Morgan said. “And I don’t think any of the candidates we’re hearing about right now has the resources, financial or political or otherwise, to be able to sustain that for, what, an election that’s 15, 18 months away?”

It was not an auspicious start for Courage’s campaign either. Pro-Palestine protestors immediately began shouting over Courage, cursing at him and calling for the city council to pass a ceasefire resolution on the Israel-Hamas War.

The council had been poised to consider such a resolution after three council members signed a memo in December that would have forced a special meeting. However, one of them, Pelaez, pulled his support, and the effort ended up sidelined, infuriating activists who have repeatedly urged the council to pass a resolution.

Courage said he recognized the protestors’ freedom of speech and continued his remarks over the shouting.

Courage, 72, is a retired teacher and U.S. Air Force veteran. He also served a four-year term on the Alamo Colleges District Board of Trustees.

After four terms representing the North Side, Courage will be termed out of his council seat next year. While he doesn’t think there are any significant issues outstanding from his time on the dais, he told reporters he also feels that he’s not done.

“I think that I have more to offer in the way of reasonableness and being responsive to the community and just using common sense in the decisions that need to be made,” he said.

He has been through 10 campaigns already between bids for U.S. Congress, Texas Senate, city council, and the community college board.

“I’m batting .500,” he quipped.

His 11th race won’t be cheap. Morgan estimates it takes between $650,000 and $1 million “to run a competitive open seat race here.”

Given the number of candidates he expects to file for mayor, Morgan said “maybe $350,000″ could be enough to get someone to a runoff, but that would come with the need to turn around and raise “a very quick” $500,000 or $600,000 for the next round.

Courage entered 2024 with $9,200 in his campaign treasury, according to his latest election finance report.

By amending his treasurer appointment to change to a mayoral campaign, Courage can now receive up to $1,000 per donor instead of the $500 cap for council candidates.

He told reporters he does not currently have a campaign manager.

About the Author

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Recommended Videos