SanAntonio Report: District 3 City Council race features ‘dynastic candidates’ on May ballot

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If she is elected to represent District 3, her transition into office will be smooth, Phyllis Viagran assured.

“I know what’s in the works and what needs to be completed,” Viagran said during a virtual candidate forum on Monday hosted by the League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area. That’s largely because her sister is the District 3 incumbent, Rebecca Viagran, who has served the maximum four terms on City Council.

That name recognition matters quite a bit, said Bryan Gervais, an associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“There’s some evidence that dynastic candidates, which I guess we can call them, benefit from some brand recognition … I think at a local level especially, which are low-information elections, where folks don’t have a lot of political knowledge about specific issues or the candidate’s ideology,” Gervais said. “And here in San Antonio for our local elections, which are nonpartisan, they don’t have partisan cues, either. So at the local level, name recognition is going to matter a whole lot more.”

District 3 is the largest geographically of all the 10 Council districts, covering 116 square miles of South San Antonio. Phyllis Viagran, a community outreach coordinator and trainer with Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), joins 11 other candidates vying to win the open seat. She is not the only familiar name on the ballot; voters also may recognize Tomas Uresti, a former state representative for District 118, which includes some of the council district.

Uresti also is the brother of former State Sen. Carlos Uresti, who is in prison after being convicted of 11 felonies, and Albert Uresti, Bexar County’s tax assessor-collector since 2013.

It’s possible Tomas Uresti’s chances for the District 3 seat may be hurt by his brother’s criminal history, said Henry Flores, a professor emeritus of political science at St. Mary’s University. Uresti lost his statehouse seat in the 2018 primary just weeks after his brother’s conviction and ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat later that year. He also failed to win election to the Harlandale Independent School District board of trustees in 2019.

“They’ve always kept family issues out of the limelight if they could,” Flores said. “Still, the public’s going to remember that and I don’t know how that is going to play in the election.”

Uresti’s campaign website and Facebook page do not detail his platform, though he released a Youtube video at the end of March entreating voters to consider him. In it, he promised to focus on pandemic relief for small businesses, vaccination efforts, and preparing for severe weather events like the February winter storm.

To read more, visit The San Antonio Report, where the article was originally published.