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Dem Party chairwoman wants to revisit charter-amendment endorsement

September 22, 2018

The chairwoman of the Bexar County Democratic Party said Friday she would seek to revisit the group’s endorsement of the fire union’s controversial charter amendments, a day after fire union President Chris Steele held a news conference touting it.

Monica Alcantara, who ousted former party chairman Manuel Medina in the March primary, sent a press release Friday that said the endorsement has “created serious concerns among a significant number of members of the BCDP County Executive Committee (CEC) and Democratic elected officials and candidates.

“Due to the numerous calls I have received from members of the BCDP since (Thursday’s) press conference, I will be recommending that the proposal to endorse the charter amendments be re-visited at the next meeting of the CEC,” she said in the release.

Alcantara was not at the party headquarters when Steele and several of his allies packed into a small room to announce the endorsement on Thursday. Just a few hours later, Steele pulled out of a long-planned debate against Mayor Ron Nirenberg at the downtown campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The town hall, sponsored by the San Antonio Express-News and UTSA, was supposed to focus on the charter amendments.

Steele did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The resolution to endorse the charter amendments — brought forward by precinct chairman Rudy Morales, a high-ranking member of the San Antonio Professional Fire Fighters Association — won an August vote among precinct chairmen loyal to Medina, who’d been endorsed by the fire union in his 2017 failed bid for mayor. Alcantara said that a majority of the precinct chairs were not present at the meeting, and therefore didn’t vote for the endorsement.

Though the party appears fractured and rife with infighting, its endorsement of the charter amendments is the highest-profile support the fire union has earned in its campaign.

“Here’s another example of the union’s bullying tactics gone wrong,” said Christian Archer, the Democratic political consultant running the Go Vote No campaign with longtime friend Kelton Morgan, a Republican strategist. “The more people understand about these propositions, the more people agree to go vote no.”

Archer applauded Alcantara’s “willpower to stand up against” the faction of the party that “is using the union’s bullying-style tactics” to jam through the endorsement.

The proposed amendments would make it easier to use referendums to challenge council decisions, including on tax and utility rates; cap the salary of future city managers; and give the fire union unilateral power to decide when contract negotiations would be taken to binding arbitration.

In her release, Alcantara said “a majority of the 263 precinct chairs who currently compose the CEC were not present and did not vote” at the August meeting.

“The endorsement of the amendments... is particularly concerning because the union has publically (sic) endorsed 21 Republican candidates running in Bexar County, including top Republican elected officials Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton,” she wrote. “The union has also endorsed Republican Congressman Will Hurd for reelection — especially troubling to Democrats given the district’s ‘battleground’ status.”

All of those candidates, the party chairwoman said, face Democratic opponents endorsed by the county party.

Josh Baugh is a staff writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | jbaugh@express-news.net | Twitter: @jbaugh

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