(Part of a series on San Antonio's municipal elections at Concerned Citizens.)
One of the more interesting council races in 2009 was the match-up in District 5 between Lourdes Galvan and David Medina. Galvan had been expected to win the race as the incumbent. However, a tenacious David Medina fought a hard battle forcing the election into a run-off and winning by a mere 45 votes. Possibly feeling Medina as vulnerable for a rematch, Galvan is now challenging him to a rematch in the 2011 municipal election. As Gilbert Garcia points out in an article in Plaza de Armas this race will prove to be just as strong of a battle as 2009 was. But is it really going to be the same type electionThis battle of D5 candidates started in 2007 after the seat became open when Councilwoman Patti Radle termed out after two terms on city council. Galvan, office manager for Radle, ran to fill her boss's seat and possibly continue the Radle's legacy in District 5. At that time a very young 21 year old David Medina attempted to win the seat, challenging Galvan in the election and forcing a run-off. Galvan missed the 50%+1 number by 148 votes. In the run-off Galvan was only able to pick up 29 more votes above her general election total. Medina, on the other hand, picked up 476 votes above his general total with most of the votes probably registered as anti-Galvan.
Galvan proved to be a tenacious council member, not afraid to challenge city staff as Garcia noted in his article. However, Galvan seemed challenged herself in really becoming comfortable in the office which may have been above her level of policy making. When 2009 rolled around Medina was back as a challenger along with a large field of candidates including one other from the 2007 election. During that race Medina once again forced Galvan into a runoff with a much tighter margin of 90 votes. In the runoff Medina's early voting numbers trounced Galvan who brought in more election day votes but not enough to overcome Medina's early voting lead.
Galvan has come back to challenge Medina in 2011 in what seems to be the ongoing battle of the district. Should Galvan win the election she will be limited to one term, having been elected as a council member under the old two-term rule. Medina has the luxury of being able to serve three more terms, winning the seat after council term limits were extended. Even with this limitation Galvan has decided to run, citing a lack of attention by Medina in the district.
At her campaign kickoff she cited several projects started under her term on council that were either cancelled or altered, including a Senior One Stop Center that was located on the edge of the district near King William. Galvan's position was that the center should have been located more centrally within the district. The location of that center in an abandoned HEB store created controversy in city council according to an article in the Express-News, with some citing a leasing cost around $45,000 more than similar centers in Districts 4 and 10.
Andro Herrera-Mendoza, a marketing instructor at Palo Alto College, has also announced for the race but may be overshadowed by the Medina-Galvan battle royale. Herrera-Mendoza has attempted politics once before, running for a position on the SAISD board according to an article in Plaza de Armas. But in such a contentious race between two long rivals it will be extremely critical to get his message above the rematch noise. After all, people really prefer political theater over substance in elections.
At this time Medina has a very minimal website for his campaign and neither of the other two candidates showing any web presence so it's very difficult to assess the candidate's positions on the issues. That will have to come as the campaign progresses and probably will come very slowly based on prior elections.
Looking at a more public aspect of the campaign, it's evident Medina is leading the pack in terms of finances. Medina's campaign finance report shows over $20,000 in contributions with much of the money coming from outside the district including out of state contributions. Galvan's finance report shows a little more than 10% of Medina's contributions so she will definitely have to make up ground in terms of fundraising if she plans to counter him in the race. Herrera-Mendoza's finance report is almost insignificant at this point and will have to drastically improve if he plans to be a contender in this race.
District 5 has never been known as a district that really digs into critical issues within the city. It's one of the poorest in the city, encompassing the Westside from the edge of downtown to Port San Antonio. It has two university campuses in the district – Our Lady of the Lake and UTSA's Downtown campus. Much of the district is driven by small businesses, ranging from local garages to family-owned restaurants. There are no major corporations located within the district with the bulk of Port San Antonio located just west of the district.
Based on the dynamics of this district and the candidates I can understand why there might be contention about serving the district. Many people probably do not take the district seriously due to the demographics and geographic location. Based on conversations with several connected with municipal government, Medina has been having a challenge finding his voice in council much like Galvan did during her term.
Comparing Galvan's finance report from the prior election to Medina's at this point it's evident that support for Galvan was starting to lose support from many in the business community. A prior report showed a much better picture of Galvan's supporters. Based on the reports Galvan will have to rely on support from the community to seriously challenge Medina in this election.
Her election results from 2007 and 2009 show a similar lack of support except by a committed base. That will have to change also to overcome the incumbent advantage. Voter turnout for the district is better than the city's average at 9.9% in 2009 compared with 6.78%, with some precincts logging voter participation in the teens.
So while this district serves a key part of the city, many of which are probably underserved, this race is really going to be more about political theater than substantive issues. I would prefer to think otherwise and hope I'm proven wrong and surprise. However, I just don't see that happening in 2011.