Election coverage Underdog reigns in District 6

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No money, no problem

The day after the election, the giddy sound in Delicia Herrera's voice was either elation or exhaustion. Although her opponent, Ray Lopez, had outspent her, and although San Antonio's development lobby had targeted her as a (gasp) environmentalist, Herrera won the District 6 City Council seat by a 56-to 44 percent margin, or 1,332 votes.

"I wasn't exhausted until today," she said 24 hours after the polls closed. "But I'm happy and excited that we accomplished this with community grassroots support. We had very little money, but I knew that it would not be an issue because of our volunteers."

According to the candidates' campaign finance records filed with the City Clerk's office, Lopez had generated $47,864 in contributions since January, including a huge influx of cash æ $27,050 in the month preceding the runoff. Contrasting the same reports æ 30-days before the election, 8-days before the election, and 8-days before the runoff æ Herrera raised $11,170.

The night before, her streamer-and-balloon-strewn campaign headquarters in a strip mall between the Alamo Drafthouse and the Acadiana Café was packed with volunteers and supporters. "Delicia Herrera is leading 53 to 47," a news anchor blared from a TV set. But this was shortly after 8, and the results only reflected Herrera's 300-vote lead after early voting. "It's still anyone's ballgame," two volunteers mused to each other.

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Yet, as the night wore on, her volunteers stayed glued to the Bexar County Elections Office website, and watched her widen the gap, garnering 1,055 votes more than Lopez on Election Day.

This, after Lopez won 31 percent of the vote, with Herrera taking 23 percent on May 7, which forced a runoff. District 6 candidate Larry Romo, who placed third in that election with 21 percent of the vote swung his runoff efforts æ and perhaps that of his supporters æ toward Herrera's campaign. "It was one-to-one contact," Herrera said of her substantial volunteer effort. On a wall hung a large piece of paper tracking who was blockwalking where and on what day.

"I heard a lot about crime, flooding, and the big issues: infrastructure," Herrera said, adding that hiring a city manager and working through a new budget would be priorities.

For the past two years, District 5's Patti Radle, who won re-election this year, has been the sole woman on Council. A new election ushers in three more women: Herrera, District 2's Sheila McNeil, who defeated the incumbent, and District 7's Elena Guajardo, who defeated a better-known challenger Noel Suniga in the runoff.

Herrera downplayed the gender issue, saying, "there shouldn't be a gender divide," but acknowledged that women on Council could "provide a different perspective."

Before Herrera knew the outcome of the District 6 race, she contemplated what she would do if she didn't win. "I'm not sure, but people have told me I have something going. I don't know what."

Now she knows.

By Lisa Sorg


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