San Antonio Express-News (w/ Josh Baugh and Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje)
Ivy Taylor secured a spot Saturday in the annals of San Antonio history, becoming the first African-American elected mayor here.
Appointed interim mayor last summer, Taylor defeated former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the runoff election. The former lawmaker couldn’t overcome Taylor, despite raising more than twice the campaign contributions of her opponent in one of the most vitriolic local elections this city has witnessed.
“Do you realize we have defeated a political machine?” Taylor said in her victory speech. “The work starts on Monday at City Hall. We come together now as a city.”
Taylor said, “I thank the lord” for her victory as supporters could be heard saying, “praise God, praise God.”
Despite entering the mayoral race late and trailing in fundraising efforts, Taylor leveraged strong North Side support and the power of incumbency — albeit appointed — and sailed to victory on the conservative vote. Her supporters appear to have looked past a public record that shows Taylor’s Democratic leanings.
The mayor hired a Republican strategy company to manage her campaign. But she appealed to conservative voters, in part, because of her 2013 opposition of the city’s controversial bolstered nondiscrimination ordinance, which gave basic protections to the LGBT community.
At a mayoral forum before the May 9 general election, Taylor called the debate over the ordinance “a waste of time.”
She also presented herself as the slayer of the controversial plan to build a streetcar system — a project she once supported.
Taylor was appointed when Julián Castro left the seat early to join President Barack Obama’s Cabinet as housing secretary.
She won the appointment, in part, because she promised her council colleagues that she wouldn’t seek a full term. Her colleagues agreed that none of them should have the benefit of incumbency and put her in the seat.
In February, though, she shifted course and entered what would become a 14-way mayoral race that also included former state Rep. Mike Villarreal and former Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson. Villarreal decided to stay mum on the matter, but Adkisson backed Taylor after his loss.
In the midst of her failed bid for lieutenant governor, Van de Putte said she wouldn’t run for mayor, but after losing the race in November, she too changed course, saying she was convinced by her supporters that she should “come home” to San Antonio and seek the position.
Taylor led the polls throughout Saturday night, beginning when early returns posted shortly after 7 p.m.
The first boxes that came in with Election Day votes favored Van de Putte, who closed a six-point gap down to about three. As returns continued to come in, Van de Putte closed the gap down to about 2 percent, but it widened later in the night — finishing at over 3 percent.
By about 9:30 p.m., Van de Putte conceded the race.
“There were over 500 people out on the streets today, knocking on doors, calling voters, but we still have a lot to do because we need to improve our voting rates in San Antonio,” she said. “Tonight, I have to tell you I’m in love with San Antonio all over again … this has been a tough race and we know we are a championship city.”
Van de Putte told her supporters she pledged her help to make San Antonio “the great American city that we know that it is.”
At the Wyndham hotel just north of downtown, Taylor began planning her first full term as mayor,
“My first order of business on Monday is to sit down with the city manager and plan how we’re going to move forward as a unified city,” she said. “We also have a retreat coming up with the City Council where we will discuss how we can all work together.”
Supporters cheered for the newly elected mayor in a large ballroom.
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, who supported Van de Putte in the race, offered a hat tip to Taylor and her victory.
“I congratulate Ivy on running a strong campaign. She should be proud of the effort that she and her team put forward,” he said. “Her challenge in the coming years will be getting a majority of council members to actually follow her lead.”
At Taylor’s party, a diverse group celebrated her victory.
“I know a lot of Hispanics felt they needed to root for Leticia, but in my opinion she’s going to be spending a lot of her time working behind the scene to get Hillary (Clinton) elected,” said Tina Slagle, a Latina. “She won’t have a lot of time to give to San Antonio.”
Slagle said she attended several mayoral forums and found Taylor “the most authentic.”
Throughout the general election, the candidates seemed to focus more on political issues that divided them — from ride-hailing to the unresolved contract issues with the public-safety unions — than on personal attacks.
Those came in the runoff.
Van de Putte took aim at Taylor over what she called “failed leadership” and criticized the mayor over her husband’s refusal to cooperate with detectives when their car and bail-bonds business were attacked in a drive-by shooting that wounded two pedestrians.
Taylor attacked Van de Putte for being a status-quo, career politician with ties to special interests. She continually criticized the former lawmaker for accepting endorsements from the public-safety unions, saying Van de Putte would have to repay them during tense contract negotiations that have drawn out for more than a year.