What Happened In San Antone?

Posted in Around The State at 10:53 am by wcnews


This is pretty bleak, Taylor’s San Antonio Win a Wake-Up Call for Democrats.

On Sunday, the day after Ivy Taylor narrowly defeated former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte for a full term as mayor of San Antonio, answers to that question varied dramatically. But even Van de Putte’s supporters, who played witness to her second high-profile loss in seven months, were sounding the alarm that the outcome spelled more doom for Texas’ beleaguered minority party.

“It ought to scare every Democrat in Bexar County,” said Christian Archer, Van de Putte’s campaign manager. “If you’re a Democrat and in Bexar County, you better wake up.”

“We keep putting the blinders over our eyes and saying, ‘Oh, no, no, no, it’ll go away.’ And it’s not going away,” added Archer, a veteran of San Antonio mayoral politics. “What’s not happening is the kind of turnout that we need.”

I didn’t pay too much attention to this race and thought that a long-time Democratic politician like Leticia Van de Putte would be able to win this race. But, if this is true, it’s easy to see why she lost.

To be clear, Taylor — the interim mayor and former councilwoman — was never seen as a long shot. Van de Putte was never considered unbeatable either, though her homecoming was premised on the idea that the mayoral race would be less of a climb than the lieutenant governor’s contest she lost to Dan Patrick in a landslide last year.

Taylor’s strength, meanwhile, was expected to come from a Republican-leaning coalition of voters looking to move the city further away from the era of her predecessor, Julián Castro, a period marked by an activist city government and bright national spotlight.

Van de Putte’s campaign worked hard to undermine that coalition. The candidate zeroed in on a report that Taylor and her husband were unwilling to pursue charges after a shooting at his bail bonds business, hoping to spook law-and-order voters backing Taylor. Van de Putte trotted out endorsements from elected officials representing Taylor’s native East Side, looking to cut into Taylor’s most oft-cited base of Democratic support. And at one point, a mailer surfaced that cut straight to the chase, calling Van de Putte the most conservative candidate in the race. [Emphasis added]

But none of it was enough to counteract Taylor’s crossover appeal, anchored in the chorus that Van de Putte was a career politician simply on the hunt for her next job. Both women had initially denied interest in the race, but it was Van de Putte who did so while campaigning for lieutenant governor, just two years after running for re-election to the Senate — a sequence Taylor’s campaign was happy to point out.

“She didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up,” Robinson said.

Generally speaking Democrats lose when they run as Republicans.

Any way this is sliced it’s more bad news for Democrats in Texas. The GOP outworked Democrats in San Antonio, again.

Weston Martinez, a conservative leader in San Antonio, said Taylor’s win was “delivered by the social conservatives, evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics,” groups encouraged to see she “doesn’t leave her faith at the door when she goes into the mayor’s office.” More broadly, though, he said her victory chips away at the presumption that big cities are hotbeds of solidly Democratic leadership.

“If you’re not all-in liberal, you can’t be elected” in a major city, Martinez said. “She just broke that mold.”

Van de Putte’s campaign had expected Republicans to factor prominently in the race, though Archer said Sunday the campaign may have underestimated the extent of that support. The GOP, he added, “want San Antonio to be a battleground, and they’re working hard at making that happen.”

It was the type of possibility Van de Putte raised herself the same night state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer lost the runoff for her Senate seat, according to the latter lawmaker. Martinez Fischer, who was defeated in February by then-House colleague José Menéndez, had fallen in the crosshairs of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a powerful tort reform group that attacked him in an effort to drive up GOP turnout.

“I remember her saying, ‘This could very well happen to me,'” Martinez Fischer recalled.

Yet he is not ready to draw broad conclusions about the fate of his hometown’s Democratic Party. While the mayoral race was “a little bit of deja vu all over again,” he said it provides a moment for reflection, not alarm.

“Of course voter engagement can be better, but this isn’t the end of the world for Bexar County Democratic politics,” Martinez Fischer said. “I will measure the future of the political party during a partisan race, and this clearly wasn’t one of them, but it was a clear example of voters needing to be a little more informed about candidates who hold themselves out as Democrats but run with Republicans.”

It doesn’t sound like Van de Putte gave the people of San Antonio much of an alternative from what they already have. And didn’t inspire Democrats to turnout.

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