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Red Dawn: Why SA is the GOP’s Best Bet for the Future

Photo: Callie Enlow, License: N/A

Callie Enlow

Bexar County GOP chairman Robert Stovall with state Rep. Joe Straus at the grand opening of the Bexar County GOP headquarters last week

Before I moved to San Antonio, the little I gleaned of her citizens’ politics inked an indelible blue portrait in my mind. At the time, I was covering protests of an immigrant detention center located north of Austin and the largest, most passionate contingent of protestors drove up frequently from SA.

Upon moving here, some of my first assignments were to interview Julián Castro, during his first mayoral campaign, and, later, his twin Joaquín Castro, before he announced he’d seek Charlie Gonzalez’ U.S. House seat. I also sat down with state Senator Leticia Van De Putte. All three of them, of course, are forceful Democrats whose national wattage has only increased since those initial interviews.

Embarrassingly, those experiences led me to the assumption that Bexar County was a Democrat stronghold with a conservative fringe, a view widely held by causal observers of Texas politics. The above Democrat elected officials are so high-flying, our liberal activists so passionate and our populace so, forgive me for the ensuing crassness, Latino, that it just seemed like we ticked all the right boxes for Obama-loving, safety-net-ensuring, culturally sensitive, forever-ever Dems.

So, as I reflected on the year in local politics, it surprised me just how many flashy events conservative Republicans staged in San Antonio. Rick Perry swooped down in early July to reassure everyone that he was relinquishing his iron grip on the governor’s manse. Then his assumed successor, state Attorney General Greg “Guess How Many Times I Sued Obama,” Abbott, made his bid for the guvship official here not one week after Perry’s visit. At around that same time, what we dubbed the biggest little gay rights battle in Texas was waged by social conservatives balking at a proposed city ordinance change that would include LGBT citizens under non-discrimination protections. And then, on one glorious day in October, gun enthusiasts proudly flashed their pieces at the Alamo while U.S. Senator Ted Cruz made attendees of the Texas Federation of Republican Women annual meeting swoon.

This all made national news.

The San Antonio politics filter suddenly seemed to switch from blue to red. I wondered if national GOP chairman Reince Priebus was steepling his fingers somewhere, laughing maniacally and muttering ‘excellent’ while observing all this attention to Bexar County. I mean, yes, Perry’s announcement occurred at the new Holt Cat facility, owned by a faithful donor to his campaigns. And sure, Abbott’s wife Cecilia is from SA. Obviously if you’re going to stage a weird gun rights demonstration in Texas, you want to do it at the Alamo. And, OK, it’s not at all uncommon for any group to have a conference in downtown San Antonio that might happen to draw some big-time guests.

But this also reflects a larger trend amongst the GOP in focusing on our fast-rising, statistically significant city. Perry certainly has plenty of big money backers elsewhere; Abbott could have easily announced in his hometown just outside Dallas, his current home in Austin, or the Houston neighborhood where he suffered his life-defining spinal injury; surely there were other groups vying for Sen. Cruz’s time; and, at any given time and place there’s a culture war to be waged (just not in front of the Alamo). I followed up on my hunch that Bexar County had newly piqued the interest of the GOP with some experts local and statewide.

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