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June 06, 2005

San Antonio Runoff Tomorrow

By Andrew Dobbs

This blog has perhaps been a bit lax in its coverage of the San Antonio mayor's race, and I apologize for that. We have a couple of Houston natives, a couple of Dallas natives, most of us still live in Austin and so everywhere else is a bit foreign to us. San Antonio politics can be a bit enervating, but this is a great race and deserves one last look before Election Day.

The candidates, of course, are City Councilman Julian Castro and former Judge Phil Hardberger. Both are progressive Democrats, both are good guys so I won't publicly pick a horse in the race. Julian Castro could be the kind of guy who sets Texas on fire in the near future, and a friend of mine his helping to run Phil Hardberger's race. This is, of course, a runoff after the first round ended with Castro garnering 42% of the vote, Hardberger 30% and 26% for the race's only Republican-- Councilman Carroll Schubert. Schubert, after running a race primarily against Hardberger, forgot all the nasties and endorsed the judge. 87% of Schubert voters say they'll support Hardberger, which led to Hardberger leading Castro 50% to 47% in a recent poll (though the numbers were still within the margin of error).

Several factors are going into the runoff. Schubert support is one of them. Castro needed about a third of Schubert's voters to support him, Hardberger about two thirds. Hardberger has won that battle on paper, but the question is whether or not they will turn out to vote. Many of Schubert's high-profile supporters such as Red McCombs have stood united behind Hardberger in the runoff. Schubert's supporters tend to be North Side, Anglo Republicans-- the kind most likely to turn out to vote-- but with weeks of their man bashing Hardberger as a "liberal trial attorney" one has to wonder whether or not they'll buy his sudden turn around. If they do, Hardberger wins. If they choose to stay home Castro is the man.

The second factor is the Latino vote, of course. Castro gets the lion's share of Latino support, but some observers suggest it isn't enough. Castro "only" has about 67% of the Latino vote, but the only other Latino mayor since Cisneros-- incumbent Ed Garza-- received just under 97% of the Latino vote his first time around. Even with strong Latino turnout, it might not be enough to put Castro over the top.

While both of these factors work in Hardberger's favor, Castro has a big one working for him-- downballot races. Two districts have runoffs, both on Castro's turf. One is actually Castro's old seat, and the other is in a predominantly Hispanic district with an exciting grassroots campaign underway. Both of these districts could see higher than average turnout, enough to push Castro over the top perhaps.

Then we come to the war of words and the gut feelings. Castro is seen as a kind of Ed Garza clone by many-- he is young, attractive, Latino, ambitious and comes from the City Council system. That is not enough to draw the comparison in my mind, but Garza is highly unpopular and has had a miserable reign at City Hall. The mental image might be enough to weaken Castro's support. Knowing this, he has resorted to sullying the image of the rather grandfatherly Hardberger, who has thus responded largely in kind. Hardberger-- who helped found the Peace Corps, was Sargeant Shriver's right hand man, was a successful attorney and popular judge-- has no experience in City Government. Still, he sounds at home talking about the Edwards Aquifer and budget issues. On the surface, many might prefer somebody not associated with the Garza era over Castro.

In the end, the race is going to be close and turnout looks to be high-- 46,000 have already voted early in only 4 days of early vote. Depending on where this turnout comes from, this could be anybody's race. Keep tuned to Burnt Orange Report for details from SA tomorrow!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at June 6, 2005 02:22 PM | TrackBack


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