March 08, 2005
The San Antonio Mayor's race

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.

Castro and his twin brother, State Rep. Joaquin Castro, came from a modest background, graduated from Stanford and Harvard, and gave up cushy jobs with the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in order to avoid conflicts of interest in their political careers. He's the leading candidate in the Mayoral race by all accounts - indeed, as Ken Rodriguez notes, the battle is for second place and a spot in the runoff. Rodriguez also notes a good reason for us Democrats to get behind Castro and not Hardberger:

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.

Schubert knows who he's really fighting against, though that hasn't stopped him from flinging mud at both of his top rivals.

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 got an email tip about this from reader Kevin, who was on the receiving end of one of these push-poll calls. Says he:

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.

More info here:

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."

If the name Baselice sounds familiar, it's because he's the middle school math pollster who testified as an expert for Talmadge Heflin. His testimony was discarded as useless by Will Hartnett. Make of that what you will.

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

The problem with Ed Garza isn't that he is too young--it is that he is willing to give the man behind the curtain whatever he wants, even if it means endangering the largest quick-recharge aquifer in North America. It needs to be noted that Julian Castro also voted for the second version of the PGA deal.

Posted by: Demo Memo on March 9, 2005 12:08 AM

Ed Garza's fine. Good Mayor- Yes, Good Leader- No. The biggest reason he was not as successful as he could have been is because he only had 4 years on the city council. At least when Ed ran in 2001, he publicly dreamed about staying on the City Council for a couple more terms were he given the opportunity to.

Julian came out and announced for office 6 months after he had been re-elected to his 2nd term. And then spent 2004 raising all of 90,000 dollars. This guy is having to go to New York, DC, LA, San Francisco, Dallas and Houston to get his money. And he's flying out to these areas and fundraising right now, losing precious campaign time in San Antonio. Then has the gall to say this shows he won't be tied to any special interest in San Antonio.

That's akin to a presidential candidate having to raise money from outside the US (were campaign finance laws to allow it) because he couldn't get any support in the US, and then stating that this makes him the completely independent candidate. No what it means is that you can't raise money from your electorate.

My main beef with Castro? Say Julian gets elected, and Charlie Gonzalez decides not to run for re-election in '06. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on San Antonio losing its mayor- barely a year into his term- to a run for Congress.

Schubert's campaign manager ran Arlene Wohlgemuth's campaign against Chet Edwards- which should point you in the direction of who's making the push polls.

Finally, just because one candidate, Phil Hardberger, has bipartisan support is no reason to support Castro over Hardberger. Hardberger is the only candidate running a citywide campaign while the other two candiates play to their base and would be the only candidate to represent all of San Antonio. You wouldn't run someone against say Chet Edwards just because he's able to get conservative Republicans to donate the max to him would you?

Hardberger's Democratic credentials are immaculate. Also coming from a modest background he put himself through Baylor University, received his law degree from Columbia and served in the Air Force. He was the executive secretary to Sargent Shriver when they first opened up the Peace Corps in the JFK administration, Shriver's Executive Secretary at the Office of Economic Opportunity in the LBJ administration, and a longtime Democratic activist San Antonio.

Posted by: RMG on March 9, 2005 7:24 AM

I live just outside San Antonio but have little special insight into the mayoral race, so I appreciate this post.

I do remember similar rhetoric about Ed Garza (young, future breakout star) when he ran last time around. So I am very skeptical about such possibilities for Castro. Hopeful, though.

Posted by: P.M.Bryant on March 9, 2005 9:30 AM

I am not happy with Garza - he put flouride in my water to the tune of about $300,000 / year (yes my councilman helped too).
I just received a call yesterday from a 'poll', probably from Hardberger's camp.
1) are you a conserv.,moderate,lib.?
2) who do you favor: castro,shubert, hardberger?
3) Do you think hardberger should concentrate on increasing city services and repairing roads (y/n)?
There were no details on 'city services' or just what roads would be fixed.
After thinking about it last night, I concluded that this poll was generally a soft political ad to put hardberger in a favorable light as one who will 'fix up' the city. From his 'bio' he certainly seems a 'doer' and is certainly on the liberal side of moderate although one can never tell until a vital issue comes up.
Thanks for the info posted. I heard parts of a debate of these 3 people last month and I wish I had listened more. While hardberger sounded the most reasonalbe, they all sounded reasonable and, sadly, from what i heard, they all sounded about the same. At least we wont get the city manager kicked out because of a family feud - i hope.

Posted by: Michael on March 31, 2005 9:31 AM

"I have always shown maturity beyond my age," Castro said. "I challenge anyone to cite an example of how I've acted immaturely LET ME THINK OH WHAT ABOUT HAVING YOUR BROTHER POSE HAS YOU AT THE RIVER PARADE

Posted by: rick on May 1, 2005 10:33 PM

I moved here to work for city council. I have
3.9 in graduate school, and meet most of the
qualifications for 20 positions / funded by
city council.

their response...throw my resume/letters of
recommendation away... this is bonker villa.
What is Phil PLAN? What is Castro PLAN? why ... does one get Higher Paying Jobs
in the city. Where are they???? 3.9 and Lost?

Posted by: Frank Bartlett on May 2, 2005 2:57 PM

Just wanted to let you know about a new blog I've started on the San Antonio Mayor's Race. Here is an article I wrote about the similarities between the LA and SA Mayor's Race, also posted at :

Similarities between LA and SA Mayor's Race
A writer on the Jeffersonian blogspot writes that there are differences between the Los Angeles and SA Mayor's Race. The reality of things is that the two races are very similar.

Castro, like Villaraigosa, is a moderate and well-respected Latino leader with city government experience in city council. Also, like Villaraigosa, Castro has reached out to a broad spectrum of groups to form a coalition that reaches out to all parts of the city. Additionally, both candidates have advanced pro-business, pro growth agendas designed to expand jobs and opportunities.

Castro's record as a city government leader actually is more extensive than Villaraigosa's in terms of legislation introduced. I think Castro's record, especially his leadership in addressing domestic violence, will help him do well among a broad range of voters, including the North Side districts.

Another similarity between the two races involves the negativity of Hahn's and Hardberger's (both "Hs") campaigns thus far, as both candidates poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into nasty attack ads on TV against their opponent.

I think Castro and Villaraigosa's campaigns have actually been quite comparable both in terms of their positive message and vision and the fact that both candidates have reached out to a broad coalition of voters city-wide.

Posted by: Marco on May 20, 2005 12:41 AM

Article from:

Experience in City Government
Following the Castro-Hardberger radio debate that took place this Tuesday, a fair number of Schubert supporters called in to assess the debate and the race thus far. The recurrent theme? Experience in city government matters. Most of these callers were concerned about Hardberger's lack of city government experience, and indicated they were now leaning toward Castro for this very reason.

Given the highly restrictive term limits here in San Antonio, it's not surprising that many of these Schubert supporters are concerned about city government experience. The bottom line--the new mayor simply doesn't have time to learn on the job, as his term is limited to a maximum of 2 two-year terms. Given the sheer magnitude and scale of this 1.3 billion-large city government, it is perfectly reasonable to expect that your new mayor will be tested and ready for the job on Day one. It's also intuitive that many Schubert supporters would now consider Castro, given their comparable city experience.

In fact, the election results from May 7 validate the importance of city government experience to city voters. Over 68 percent of voters voted for a candidate with city goverment experience. The May 7 election thus sent a clear message--city government experience MATTERS to a significant chunk of the electorate.

Posted by: Marco on May 20, 2005 12:44 AM