I mentioned recently that the next election of any major consequence will be the San Antonio city elections, to be held on May 7. Via Dos Centavos, here's an introduction to the leading contender and probable breakout star of the future, City Council member Julian Castro.
Castro is only 30. He won't turn 31 until Sept. 16, more than four months after the May 7 city election. But the age issue presents a difficult problem for his mayoral aspirations.
His strongest opponents in the six-candidate field, City Councilman Carroll Schubert and retired 4th Court of Appeals Chief Justice Phil Hardberger, are 57 and 70, respectively.
And, through no fault of his own, Castro is paying for the wobbly four-year administration of Mayor Ed Garza. After ascending to the office at 32, Garza's weak stewardship has left many in the community yearning for what they quietly refer to as "gray hair" or "mature leadership."
"The invisible candidate running against Julián Castro is Mayor Ed Garza," said Larry Hufford, a St. Mary's University political scientist.
It is a difficult position for Castro, a disciplined candidate who is a student of voting trends, because voters aren't likely to admit they think a candidate is too young or too old.
And if they hold an age bias, it likely won't be demonstrated until they enter the voting booth, Hufford said.
"In City Council elections and mayoral races, you have very low turnout," Hufford said. "And when the people who tend to vote in large numbers are senior citizens, it poses a potential problem (for Castro)."
"I have always shown maturity beyond my age," Castro said. "I challenge anyone to cite an example of how I've acted immaturely."
The closest his foes will come to that is by criticizing his opposition to the PGA Village golf development, a much-hyped tourism project that died because of intense community debate over its potential effect on the city's drinking water supply.
But Castro and the council have since approved an alternative deal with the PGA Tour to bring a world-class golf resort to the same land over the Edwards Aquifer.
The thing Castro's opponents have not overtly attacked is his integrity. And that's where he thinks he can neutralize questions about his youth.
In a post-bribery-scandal era at City Hall, he notes his age didn't keep him from being a leading voice on campaign-finance and ethics reforms. And as the representative of a largely working-class council district, his age also didn't keep him from ushering through a series of much-needed drainage projects.
A recent Survey USA poll showed that while City Councilman [Carroll] Schubert had a higher favorable rating than Hardberger among Republicans, 31-24 percent, Schubert also had a higher unfavorable rating — 14-13 percent.
Surprised? You might be surprised that many community and business leaders known for contributing to Republican candidates and conservative causes are supporting Hardberger, the retired chief justice of the 4th Court of Appeals.
Consider: Billionaire auto dealer B.J. "Red" McCombs has given $10,000 to the Hardberger campaign, and Cornerstone Church pastor John Hagee has contributed $5,000.
Billionaire construction pioneer H.B. Zachry has donated $1,000 to Hardberger, as has SBC Communications CEO Ed Whitacre.
I don't have time to identify all the Republicans who have contributed to Hardberger, but I've checked, and the list is long.
City Councilman Julian Castro and former Judge Phil Hardberger accused councilman and fellow mayoral candidate Carroll Schubert of using "push polling."
According to the National Council on Public Polls, a "push poll" is a telemarketing technique in which telephone calls are used to canvass potential voters, feeding them false and damaging information about the opponent.
Castro said a member of his campaign staff received such a call from a Schubert pollster.
"Councilman Schubert's negative push poll, these dirty campaign tactics, have turned this race into a personal kind of battle we need to stay away from," said Castro.
Hardberger also condemned the polling technique.
"It's gutter politics. It's questions being asked in theory, but in reality spreading lies. It's the worst of San Antonio politics," said Hardberger.
Schubert denied his campaign is using "push polls."
"The first thing I think Councilman Castro should do is look up he definition of push polling. I think, perhaps, if he had some professionals involved in his campaign, he would understand what push polling is," said Schubert.
Schubert said his polls are scientific and the statements made by his pollsters are factual.
I was called for the poll in question, and thought I could offer some direct testimony. It started out normally enough, but then hit a section which was "I'm going to read some statements from local newspapers, tell me if they would make you more likely or less likely to vote for that candidate." Again, normal enough, until the questions hit. The first one was "Julian Castro's opponents say he is too young to be effective as mayor of San Antonio." Hrm... Second: "Carroll Schubert has served on the City Council's military affairs panel for the last five years, during which time he was instrumental in keeping San Antonio military bases open and bringing millions of dollars into the San Antonio economy."
Note that quotes are paraphrased, it didn't occur to me to write it down at the time. Silly me.
At that point it was rather obvious what was going on, and I politely ended the call.
The survey began with general questions about city government, such as whether the listener had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the current City Council.
The survey then went on to ask about the three major mayoral candidates, Castro, Schubert and Hardberger.
The pollster stated, for example, that Castro is a "West Side" councilman and that he has been criticized for missing numerous City Council meetings and trying to pass "non-effective legislation."
Hardberger, meanwhile, is portrayed as a lawyer who has "made millions of dollars suing doctors and small businesses" and who "is fighting for trial lawyers to keep more money and is against award caps."
Out of 20 questions asked about the candidates, two pertain to Schubert, three to Castro and the remaining 15 to Hardberger.
Schubert uses an Austin-based polling firm, Baselice & Associates, but said for strategic reasons his campaign won't disclose the results or timing of poll research.
Meranda Carter, Schubert's communications director, said the Baselice firm can neither "confirm nor deny either way whether this particular phone call was theirs. They cannot and will not because if they did, it would give out information about our approach."
I'm going to try to keep an eye on this race. If anyone in the Alamo City has any tips or other useful info on this race, by all means please send it along to me.Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 08, 2005 to Election 2005 | TrackBack