Local Texas Elections Draw Few Voters, Result In Three Key Runoffs

Woulda, shoulda, coulda – but many Texas voters didn’t head to the polls for local elections. Now, races in San Antonio, El Paso and Pasadena are headed to runoffs.

By Rhonda FanningMay 8, 2017 11:14 am, ,

If people feel like their votes don’t count – three pivotal elections across the state seem to prove otherwise.

In San Antonio, that city’s first-ever African-American mayor, Ivy Taylor, was up for reelection against city council member Ron Nirenberg, who finished in second, and local Democratic party chair Manuel Medina.

Taylor felled a giant when she beat former Texas Senator Leticia Van de Putte for the job a few years ago. But, in this weekend’s election, Taylor garnered 42 percent of the vote — not enough to avoid a runoff against Nirenberg.

Texas Tribune Investigative reporter Neena Satija dug into the numbers and the outcomes.

“It’s hard to know how the voters felt because there wasn’t a lot of polling on the mayoral election before Saturday’s election,” Satija says. “But I would say while Taylor’s turn was generally well received, there were some kind of elements of anti-establishment running through the campaign – especially from Manuel Medina – he was very much running a sort of ‘drain the swamp’ type of campaign. He got about 15 percent of the vote. And so I think people were looking for a change.”

In El Paso, turnout was extremely low for a mayoral race involving no incumbent.

“The top vote-getter there was former State Rep. Dee Margo – so he’ll be headed to a runoff,” Satija says. “He came out close to 50 percent but, again, running against six other candidates was just too hard to get to 50 percent.”

Finally, in Pasadena, Texas, people were looking to the city to see if a new method of electing city council members would benefit its large Latino population. Democrats, however, were disappointed. The city’s mayoral election is going to a runoff – with an ally of the former mayor in the lead. The race for a city council seat will also see a runoff.

“In some cases, dozens or maybe more than 100 votes could have made the difference. There were just so few votes in general,” Satija says.

Written by Laura Rice.