In a hotly contested race for the District 5 City Council seat, Teri Castillo stood alone after the final results came in from Saturday night’s runoff election.
Of the vote total, Castillo captured 57.6% (2,493 votes) to Rudy Lopez’s 42.4% (1,837 votes) in the open seat being vacated by longtime Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales.
“Moving forward, ensuring that we’re prioritizing community and ensuring that our policy reflects what community wants to see, not so much what I as an individual want to see,” Castillo said shortly after arriving at her campaign’s watch party at an art complex at 1906 S. Flores St. “It’s about the power of the collective and ensuring that the voices of everyone in District 5—whether you live in the district for months or for generations—that our voices are being echoed at City Hall.”
The energy was high and the crowd skewed young at Castillo’s watch party as early voting results came in. A crowd of about 50 supporters early on was dominated by blue Castillo campaign shirts, with a sprinkling of green tees worn by members of the Texas Organizing Project. Coolers with free beer and soft drinks accompanied a fired-up comal cooking meat and heating corn tortillas.
On election night in May, Castillo cemented frontrunner status with 30.7% of the vote, the largest among the field of 11 candidates by a wide margin. Lopez won a tight race for second place, securing 14.7% of the vote.
“Even if I don’t win this race, I’m going to continue serving my community,” Lopez said earlier in the evening. “I’m gonna continue working in District 5. District 5 is my home, it’s my life. The only thing I wanna see is for District 5 to become a better place to live.”
While the police reform measure Proposition B was the major divisive issue in the general election—with Castillo being the only candidate to explicitly endorse it in the District 5 field—the runoff campaign focused more on issues related to housing, real estate and small business development.
On May 18, at a candidate forum moderated by the San Antonio Heron that also included District 3 candidate Phyllis Viagran, Lopez pointed at homelessness as the “big issue” he saw facing the district. Castillo, when asked the same question, spoke to ecological concerns and a need to protect low-income homeowners in the district.
Two days later, a candidate forum organized by the West Commerce Business Alliance at the Mexican American Unity Council Administration focused on business issues, with three questions addressing taxes, infrastructure, and business development.
Castillo expressed a need to protect “legacy business owners,” pointing to transit-oriented development and missing middle housing as key issues she would seek to address in office.
Lopez talked about recognizing the difference between big and small business development, and remarked at one point that “to mark everything ‘historic’ makes business investment difficult”—a jab at Castillo’s vocal support of historic preservation on the West Side.
Another forum was held on May 25 at Historic Cassiano Park by the Historic Westside Residents Association, the Westside Preservation Alliance, and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. Moderated by San Antonio Express-News metro columnist Elaine Ayala, the gathering was more of an open forum and was crowded, with around 100 community members in attendance. The event included hot dogs, fruit cups, and a DJ playing oldies before and after a Q&A that fielded questions from a diverse mix of constituents.
Several of the questions focused on personal identity. “Who are you, and where are you from?,” Ayala posed to each candidate to kick off the forum.
Castillo spoke about how she turned down an offer to pursue a PhD at UCLA. After studying urban policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio, she said realized that “the work is here, on the West Side.” Lopez spoke of his 25 years of experience with the City of San Antonio, and eight years as a leader of the Thompson Neighborhood Association. Over the course of the forum the two candidates sparred on housing and development issues, with Lopez praising Shirley Gonzales’ “equity lens” budget achievements, and Castillo focusing on “predatory real estate practices” and a “pipeline to demolition” that she says is displacing the generationally least privileged members of the community.
Castillo was active both online and on the streets in the days preceding the runoff. She was among a group of West Side activists and neighborhood groups protesting the demolition of the historic west downtown Whitt Printing building. “I believe that the (city’s formal approval) process has been circumvented, and the community hasn’t been able to voice their concerns,” she told the Heron, adding that options including incentivizing retrofitting the building “haven’t been explored.”
After runoff campaign finances were released on June 1, the Twitter account @students4teri—a grassroots network unaffiliated with Castillo’s campaign, according to its Twitter bio—posted an analysis of Lopez’s campaign contributions, noting support from developers like the SA Apartment Association PA and Associated Builders & Contractors Inc PAC, which have a track record of building luxury apartments in the city, and a number of law firms that represent real estate developers and collect late payments.
Lopez significantly outraised and outspent Castillo in the runoff, taking in almost $43,000 in campaign contributions, and spending over $32,000, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
“Castillo, on the other hand, reported almost $14,000 in contributions and $9,500 in spending. But she had more in her coffers than Lopez—more than $14,000,” Express-News reporter Joshua Fechter wrote.
Josh Feola is a freelance journalist in San Antonio. Follow him at @joshfeola on Twitter