Early voting in San Antonio’s mayoral election began this week. But the most recent headlines in the race have been about comments that were made three weeks ago.
On April 3, Mayor Ivy Taylor and one of her opponents, Councilman Ron Nirenberg, spoke at a forum. They were asked about what they saw as the deepest systemic causes of generational poverty in the Alamo City. Part of Taylor’s response was that the cause is “broken people” who are not “in a relationship with their creator.”
The comments didn’t cause an uproar at the forum, but weeks later, they did – in the media and online. Outlets including the Huffington Post, newspapers across Texas, and even the Washington Post picked up the comments. And critics on social media claimed Taylor was attacking atheists or shaming the poor.
“This was a non-profit forum,” Garcia says. “When Mayor Taylor addressed the incidence of poverty, and made the now-famous statement about broken people, there was no sense that people disapproved of it, and her opponent, Ron Nirenberg – he was the only opponent she is facing who was actually at the forum – he followed with an answer of his own. He didn’t criticize her answer at all.”
Garcia says he thought the comments were noteworthy. He sought out the person who asked Taylor the question about the causes of poverty, and asked her opinion of the mayor’s response.
“She was satisfied, and essentially agreed with what Mayor Taylor had said,” Garcia says.
Garcia says he understands the social media reaction to the video of the mayor’s comments, but believes Taylor’s intent was to address the questioner in terms of religious faith.
“The person who asked her was a member of the faith-based community, and Ivy Taylor is very outspoken about how important her faith is to her,” Garcia says. “And I think it was a moment where she felt, we’re kind of on the same page here, and I’m not going to speak as a policymaker, or a mayor for a second here, I’m just going to talk to you about what I see as a person of faith.”
This is not the first time comments or actions by Taylor have brought attention from activists and interest groups. In 2013, as a member of the San Antonio City Council, Taylor was one of three councilmembers who voted against an anti-discrimination ordinance that ultimately passed.
“That was a turning point in how the public perceived her,” Garcia says. “Since then, in the LGBT community, there has been some negativity toward her. And I think there are people who perceive her as someone whose faith makes her less than tolerant. And so I think when she spoke in this way, for people that didn’t like her, I think this confirmed what they already believed about her.”
Garcia says Taylor’s comments about poverty may not affect her chances of winning re-election. He says those who objected to the comments were unlikely to vote for her, and that the conservative voters who elected her may actually warm to her in the wake of the controversy.
“She won in 2015 by appealing to northside conservatives,” he says. “And some of those people have cooled on her in the past two years, and it could actually make her more sympathetic to some of those voters.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.