Today San Antonians in two council districts will complete the biennial process of selecting those that represent them at the city level. It’s Election Day for races in District 1 and 7. In District 1 the final two candidates are Diego Bernal and Ralph Medina and in District 7 the runoff is between Cris Medina and Elena Guajardo. Based on early voting totals it looks like we’re going to be seeing a trend of around 70% of General Election voters participating in the runoff. While that may sound reasonable remember that only 7% of registered voters actually voted in the General Election. So I highly encourage you to vote at your polling place if you haven’t already. Just please vote!
Yesterday I got a FB comment from a friend dismayed at a mailer he had received from Diego Bernal that had been paid for by SEIU COPE, the national PAC for the SEIU union, a union for service employees that has been growing nationally. While it may shock a few, it’s really no secret that SEIU has backed Bernal, providing volunteers for block walking and fundraising. Many had thought that Ralph Medina was the only one in bed with organized labor but Bernal is just as much in the thick of the matter. Both stated at a candidate forum they support the right for labor to organize. But this really starts to prompt the question of who else are the candidates beholding to. You can tell a lot by their campaign finance reports.
As we end up the final day of Early Voting for the municipal runoff elections in District 1 and 7 and prepare to go into Election Day this Saturday I decided to take a look at the voter turnout for the various districts from the past election to see what type of things might get people to vote. As many of you know, voter turnout for the General Election ended up around 7% of registered voters. That’s pretty dismal considering that several of the races were hotly contested races. Even with the premiere race in District 1, the voter turnout for that district ended up around 10% with the best precinct in that district coming in at around 24% (King William). With presidential races running around 60-65% and statewide races getting 25-30% what’s wrong with San Antonio voters at the local level?
I finally have had a chance to take a look at the two council races that are in a runoff after San Antonio’s municipal general election. Most everyone knew that District 1 and District 7 would end up in a runoff with such a crowded field and several good candidates in the field. What surprised some though, was how close Cris Medina was to pulling off a victory and how Diego Bernal vaulted a very talented field to end up in first place facing Ralph Medina in a run0ff. I’ve already written how I think both races will end up based on election results and past history. However, I did decide to take the time and break down the races once the canvassed votes were posted. Read more…
Tonight was the District 1 candidate forum for runoff candidates, Diego Bernal and Ralph Medina, held at Mark Twain Middle School. Mark Twain was the site of the last candidate forum prior to the election, held by a coalition of 11 neighborhood associations. The crowd tonight was about 60% of the last forum which is what I predict turnout for the runoff to be on June 11th. Honestly, we’ll be doing good to get 3,000 voters or so to the polls for the runoff. But even with limited participation the candidates were still ready to field the questions provided by citizens. So how do things look as we get ready to jump into early voting that runs from May 31 – June 7?
Yesterday I started looking back at San Antonio’s general election and what really happened last weekend. One thing is pretty clear in that the conventional political wisdom was thrown for a loop with the victory of Rey Saldaña in District 4 and the large lead Diego Bernal had over the rest of the pack in District 1. Saldaña beat a political insider who not only had the backing of the business and City Hall insider crowd but also the endorsement of the mayor. Bernal started the race in third place but emerged the frontrunner with a 12 point lead over the expected frontrunner, Ralph Medina. Both candidates are young and new to the San Antonio political scene with very little experience or exposure with voters. So what propelled these two newcomers to their surprising outcomes?
San Antonio has almost completed its municipal election cycle for the next two years. The only thing left to do is finish runoffs in two districts, District 1 and 7, where everyone expected runoffs to occur. In the other districts, incumbents secured their seats, a self-funded businessman locked in his place on council, and a young political newcomer defeated a seasoned, well-connected politician. But even though D1 and D7 have runoffs scheduled for June 11th, is the answer already known in those districts?
I’ve been diving into this issue of voter turnout, or lack thereof, in San Antonio and posed a question to some of my Facebook friends as to what they think the problem is. As you may know, the more local the race the smaller the turnout. So one reason I put out was the lack of media exposure for candidates at the local level. I’ve found that many people in San Antonio can name some of the possible 2012 presidential candidates but can’t even name their current city council member. So what will it take to raise awareness of local elections to the point where people will start turning out to vote?
This weekend has been an interesting one when you look at some of the events that are unfolding. In Austin, our Texas legislators seem to be having a problem trying to govern as they work towards passing a budget in which many will find fault. In San Antonio, as we wind down early voting for our municipal elections, voter turnout is one of the worst we’ve had in a long time. Based on prior history and current totals, only about 5-6% will vote in this year’s municipal election. That’s about 45,000 people making decisions for a city of over 1.3 million people, or 29 people relying on 1 person for their municipal decisions. So why are voters content with letting a few decide the future of San Antonio?
We live in one of the most incredible republics in the world. Since the founding of our country almost all citizens have been afforded the right to vote and chose their leaders. Through the passage of time all citizens of the United States now enjoy the freedom to vote one of their peers to hold office and serve those citizens in government. Yet, with all this freedom to vote and serve the vote of the American people continues to slide in numbers, leaving the choices of a few to govern the masses. If I had these odds in the lottery I’d be buying a ticket every chance I could. So why don’t Americans vote in elections?
Yesterday I finished my endorsements for the 2011 municipal elections, with District 1 as my final endorsement. I knew I had to do something for that race since not only do I live in that district and needed to pick a candidate, I also needed to provide information on why I picked who I did. Endorsements are a part of the political process and I wanted to be a part of that this year after having researched the candidates and the race. This year I decided to try to canvass the entire slate of races and, in doing so, learned a lot more about what it takes to really do the endorsement process justice. If you’re going to put your choice out there you better be able to back why you picked who you did.
The KLRN candidate forum, my final campaign event, is finally over and it’s time to pick my choice for District 1, the final district in my list of endorsements. I’ve held out on this district because it’s probably been the hardest to call since the race started. The slate of candidates is one of the best I’ve seen in San Antonio, aside from some of our mayoral races. After looking at the candidates, their strengths, and their weaknesses I’ve decided to support Ralph Medina as candidate for the District 1 council seat. Hopefully I lay out my reasons for the decision in a way that makes it clear. I know I’ll miss some points but I don’t want to write a book on the candidates. They each bring a wealth of skills to the table. I’ll let you read and then I encourage you to make your own decision based on this entry, the others I’ve provided, the information in the Express-News and Plaza de Armas, and finally your own values and interests.
Interestingly, the last conversation I had with the District 1 candidates is the one I could have probably had several months ago. I sat down with Chris Forbrich at El Mirador, less than a block away from his office in the King William District, to talk about this race. But, in some ways, it was really just a continuation of his campaign from 2009 against incumbent Mary Alice Cisneros. Anyone who knows Chris knows he’s been in campaign mode since the day after that election, focusing on the open seat. Some might consider this good campaign strategy since it got Forbrich name recognition challenging one of the strong political families of San Antonio and winning a few supporters for bucking the norm. But, with a new field of candidates and issues, did Forbrich adapt the campaign?
When I arranged to sit down with Ralph Medina to find out more about him as a candidate for the District 1 seat, I made the request I’d made to the other candidates – you pick the place and time, I’ll pick up the check, so long as the place is in District 1. So we agreed to breakfast at Taco Haven on S. Presa, right on the south edge of the district. I’ve always wanted to go to Taco Haven, knowing the reputation of the local eatery and Medina gave me my opportunity. As I started to enjoy my chilaquiles with a side order of bacon, my favorite, Medina started giving me some insight into why, after retiring from the San Antonio Fire Department, he opted for more public service as a city councilmember.
Tuesday night candidates for the District 1 council seat came together for what is probably the last public candidate forum before early voting starts. Granted KLRN will be broadcasting their candidate forum on Sunday, May 1st, at 3 p.m.. But this was a chance for the candidates to meet constituents face to face and hear for themselves where the candidates stood on key issues. Interest was high enough to pull together seven neighborhood associations and almost fill the auditorium at Mark Twain Middle School. Based on public interest and the quality of answers from the candidates, we have ourselves one of the best races in District 1 in a long time.