On Saturday night, Julian Castro's campaign headquarters was filled with excitement, but very little suspense.
In the middle of the afternoon, Castro campaign manager Christian Archer openly suggested that his candidate might be looking at a mayoral runoff with either Trish DeBerry-Mejia or Diane Cibrian. Archer indicated that early-voting returns would hold the key to the race.
Sure enough, when early-voting results came in at 7:05 p.m. and they showed Castro with a whopping 56 percent of the vote, the room exploded. Castro volunteers hugged each other, some supporters shouted "It's over!" and a giddy Archer told Castro, via cell phone, that he would be the next mayor of San Antonio.
Archer had been working all day, and he hoped to find some time to get home, take a shower, and change, but things became so hectic that at the end of the night he remained in shorts and a tee-shirt, sweaty but exultant.
While the parking-lot sound system blared Top 40 memories from Castro's grade-school years (Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams"; Starship's "We Built this City"), various speakers sang Castro's praises. County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson referred to Castro as "the phoenix rising from the ashes," a touch hyperbolic considering that all Castro rose from was a narrow 2005 runoff defeat at the hands of Phil Hardberger â?? but it was more poetic than simply calling him "the comeback kid."
The speech most emblematic of the way Castro remade himself for this election came from local businessman Mike Beldon, who volunteered that he didn't know Castro as recently as two years ago. He said Castro sought him out, the two met, and Beldon quickly became convinced that Castro possessed the right vision for San Antonio. Four years ago, Castro nearly won, with near-universal opposition from the business community. This year, with the support of local shakers such as Beldon, he was unbeatable.
QueBlog went into election night believing that if DeBerry-Mejia could garner 30 percent of the vote, she might force a runoff. She nearly reached that vote level, but it didn't matter, because Cibrian fared so poorly, coming in with a paltry 8 percent. For all of Cibrian's aggressive attacks on DeBerry-Mejia in the campaign's final weeks, it didn't seem to earn Cibrian any discernible shift in the vote.
Councilmembers Jennifer Ramos (basking in an unopposed election romp), Phil Cortez, Mary Alice Cisneros (celebrating her District 1 triumph, alongside husband Henry Cisneros), and Lourdes Galvan dropped by to congratulate Castro. Galvan, sounding weary and a bit disappointed in the face of a tough runoff challenge from David Medina, drove back to her headquarters before Castro's victory speech.
Castro's speech struck his familiar campaign theme of wanting to create jobs and grow the city, while hanging on to what he called SA's unique character and soul. When he talked about his goals for the next two years, someone shouted "eight years." He simply smiled and said, "Let's not get ahead of ourselves."
Two final thoughts about the victory celebration: Castro's twin brother, State Representative Joaquin Castro, uttered the most charming groaner of the night when he said that he knew the mayor-elect better than anyone, because they'd been "womb-mates." Also, Castro noted that he'd received congratulatory calls from DeBerry-Mejia and Cibrian, but what about Sheila McNeil? If the outgoing District 2 councilwoman did not bother with the niceties of congratulating the victor, it would be oddly consistent with her flaky, erratic, late-to-enter, early-to-exit campaign.