IssuesLocal NewsRon Nirenberg Faces Saturday Runoff for San Antonio Mayor Amid Investigations

Multiple investigations into the San Antonio City Council's actions against Chick-fil-A have shaped a contentious mayoral runoff.
June 4, 2019
Following a vote by the San Antonio city council to exclude Chick-fil-A from an airport contract due to that company’s alleged “anti-LGBTQ” behavior, the city has remained in the limelight of both national media outlets and Texas politicians.

After the vote to exclude Chick-fil-A, San Antonio City Councilman Robert Trevino memorably remarked, “With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the decision at the time, “discriminatory, and not only out of step with Texas values, but inconsistent with the Constitution and Texas law.”

The Texas legislature apparently agreed–passing a religious liberty bill authored by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola)–with the intention of preventing local or state government from taking adverse action against a business, individual, or private entity simply for their contributions or associations with a religious organization.

And at the end of May, the FAA’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation to determine whether this exclusion was a form of religious discrimination. And just yesterday, Paxton’s office released a statement explaining his suit for access to public records regarding an investigation into the city’s actions.

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The statement read in part that, “Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed a petition in Travis County District Court against the City of San Antonio as part of his office’s investigation into the city’s exclusion of Chick-fil-A from an airport concession contract. The petition seeks to compel San Antonio to hand over documents deemed public under state law.”

Paxton’s office also revealed that the City of San Antonio is refusing to comply with the Attorney General’s investigation.

All of this is inextricably factoring into a contentious mayor’s race between incumbent Mayor Ron Nirenberg and his challenger, City Councilman Greg Brockhouse.

Nirenberg has outraised and outspent Brockhouse since the beginning of the race, and many local outlets claimed Nirenberg should have won the initial election easily.

Instead, that race went into a runoff election slated for this Saturday.

Brockhouse’s opposition to the Chick-fil-A decision and support from the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association and Police Officers Association has kept him in the race.

The Texan reached out to one of Brockhouse’s main supporters, the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association (SAPFA) to learn more about their advocacy for Councilman Brockhouse and their criticism of Mayor Nirenberg.

Colin Strother responded on the behalf of the SAPFA saying, “Ron Nirenberg is anti-labor. He not only has voted to put city employees on high-deductible plans, but he opposes the enhanced healthcare packages that first-responders need.”

Strother cited the fact that first-responders not only are placed in hazardous situations, but often have lots of wear and tear on their bodies due to their daily procedures.

On the ideological differences between Nirenberg and Brockhouse, Strother said, “Nirenberg’s solution to everything is to study it, and Greg Brockhouse wants to take action. Fire[fighters] feel like they would be better off having someone in the job (mayor) that is action focused and oriented.”

At the end of May, Texas Organizing Project (TOP) endorsed Nirenberg over Brockhouse.

Mary Moreno, communications director with TOP, stated, “TOP members were encouraged by Mayor Nirenberg’s commitment to using an equity lens in passing the city’s annual budget, which has resulted in more funding for infrastructure in historically marginalized communities.”

From their website, TOP’s mission is to, “increase community engagement, grow the city’s public transportation network, and work to begin the process to reduce the effects of climate change.”

Regarding Brockhouse, Moreno said, “His approach also means a return to the long-held ‘status quo,’ which leaves marginalized communities, particularly communities of color, further from opportunities and further from righting generational gaps in wealth. We are also concerned about what happens to housing, transportation, and climate plans if he becomes mayor.”

The Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (CAAP) — more or less a local version of the much-discussed “Green New Deal”— was a result of Nirenberg’s National Climate Action Agenda released in 2017.

With a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, the CAAP proposal promotes an extensive government-mandated reordering of the city’s infrastructure and economy. Some of the CAAP goals include decarbonizing the grid, switching from natural gas to electricity to power existing buildings, and adopting a zero net energy code for all new buildings by 2040.

In late March, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg delayed the city council’s vote on CAAP until the fall. However, in early May The Texan released exclusive poll data that showed San Antonio voters were not willing to pay more in energy costs.

Carlton Soules, a San Antonio political consultant, submitted his take on the mayoral election.

“The runoff has turned into a pure ideological battle with progressives on one side (Nirenberg) and moderates and conservatives on the other (Brockhouse). There is virtually no meaningful debate on policy or long-range plans, just name calling, which is a disservice to the citizens of SA.”

Soules goes onto say, “Brockhouse clearly has momentum, but his lack of a compelling vision and his vague policy proposals are holding him back. He needs to put forth his own bold ideas, not just shoot holes in Nirenberg’s progressive dreams.”

The latest campaign finance reports show nearly $330,000 in campaign contributions to Nirenberg and about $115,000 for the challenger Brockhouse.

The reports cover contributions made from April 25 through May 29.

After campaign expenses, Nirenberg has a little more than $95,500 heading into the last days before this Saturday’s runoff election.

Brockhouse has a little more than $28,500 remaining after expenses.

Incumbent mayors have won every race but one in the past 22 years.


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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.