IssuesLocal NewsChick-fil-A Decision May Have Resulted in San Antonio Mayoral Runoff

A city council vote targeting Chick-fil-A back in late March looks to have factored into Saturday's election results for San Antonio mayor.
May 6, 2019
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On April 3, almost two weeks after a controversial city council decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio airport, incumbent Mayor Ron Nirenberg and his challenger, City Councilman Greg Brockhouse, addressed a room full of hospitality professionals at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk Hotel.

“We have one and a half million people going through that airport on a Sunday, and I want to make sure…they have a full array of options, not going through a darkened food court,” said Mayor Nirenberg.

He continued, “I have no qualms with the Chick-fil-A faith-based business model, nor do I care about who they donate to…when we make a decision, we have to make it in the best interest of the city, the airport, and the passengers we serve.”

That decision has garnered national attention in large part because the rationale provided by current City Councilman Robert Trevino was that the restaurant had been excluded because of its alleged “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.” 

Incumbent mayors have won every race but one in the past 22 years. Carlton Soules, a former San Antonio District 10 City Councilman turned political consultant said, “When 52 percent of the people don’t vote to reelect the mayor, that’s not good for him.”  

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The Texan interviewed Soules, who served as a member of the San Antonio City Council during Julián Castro’s tenure as mayor.

“Instead of talking about what he [Nirenberg] wanted to do, he went totally negative against Brockhouse, and I think that turned people off,” Soules said of mailers sent out last week by the Nirenberg campaign.

The mailers attacked Brockhouse on the grounds of two alleged domestic violence incidents. Brockhouse was not arrested or charged in either case.

Brockhouse responded by saying, “I’ll take Ron to task for his failed leadership, about his lack of accomplishment, and the things he’s done in City Hall…I’m not going to attack him as a man or as a father or as a person. I’m not going to do that.”

Regarding the decision by the city council to exclude Chick-fil-A from the airport, Soules believes it played a major role in Saturday’s results.

“I think that cost Nirenberg the victory. It was probably worth 4 or 5 points in this election. They had an opportunity to correct their mistake and the mayor doubled down.”

Brockhouse responded to an inquiry from the Texan this morning about the Chick-fil-A decision and one of the early policy aspirations from Mayor Nirenberg’s tenure, the so-called Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (CAAP), which would be a kind of localized attempt to mimic many of the policy goals within the “Green New Deal.”

Regarding Chick-fil-A, Brockhouse stated, “It was a terrible decision and I think it’s opened the eyes of families here in San Antonio. It has shown the disconnect between them and city hall; values they reflect are not reflected at city hall.”

Brockhouse continued, “We have an NDO (Non-Discrimination Ordinance) in San Antonio and Chick-fil-A adheres to it 100 percent. They feed everybody, serve everybody….our city is named after a Saint…you don’t get more faith-based in Texas than San Antonio.”

When asked about the CAAP plan Mayor Nirenberg and other city council members have pushed, Brockhouse said, “We currently don’t know the cost associated with it….someone has got to pay for it. The number one concern I have is the zero cost attached, but we know these policies and changes lead to cost on the residents.”

The Climate Action & Adaptation Plan was scheduled for a vote in late March. It has since been delayed for the fall.

An exclusive report showing San Antonio voters skeptical of many provisions within the CAAP proposal was made public earlier today.

The Texan also reached out to Mayor Nirenberg’s campaign for comments on the runoff, Chick-fil-A, and the CAAP plan, but did not receive a response. According to campaign finance reports, Nirenberg had a nearly a four-to-one fundraising advantage over Brockhouse going into the May 4 election.

Despite a significant financial advantage, the incumbent mayor was unable to stave off Brockhouse’s challenge and prevent a runoff election.

An official date for that election will be set by Governor Greg Abbott, which is likely to be scheduled for early June.

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Tony Guajardo

Tony Guajardo

Tony Guajardo is a reporter for The Texan. He has been involved in politics since the fall of 2012 when he served as an intern for the now-retired U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez (D-San Antonio). He is a native of Fort Worth, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University.