Tuesday’s announcement that Mayor Julián Castro will keynote next month’s Democratic National Convention met with widespread local acclaim, but, also, a few private grumbles (by a strange coincidence, they all seemed to come from non-Democrats). The complaint was that Castro has made a mockery of the hallowed San Antonio tradition of mayors checking their partisan politics at the door of City Hall.
I know San Antonians enjoy the pretense of non-partisanship, but, in all honesty, the tradition is not all that hallowed, or even that traditional. Let’s remember that in 1984, then-Mayor Henry Cisneros did nothing to hide his political leanings when Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale put Cisneros on his short list of potential running mates. (While we’re at it, let’s consider that Castro’s predecessor, Phil Hardberger, made generous contributions, while serving as mayor, to the congressional campaigns of local Democrats Ciro Rodriguez and Charlie Gonzalez).
Castro and Cisneros stand out in the pantheon of San Antonio mayors not only because of their ethnicity, youth, and ambition, but also because of something abstract but undeniable: star power. No disrespect to Howard Peak or Ed Garza, but it’s not like anyone was asking them to keynote a national convention or run for vice-president. If given the chance, are we really supposed to believe they would have turned down these opportunities – in the interest of non-partisanship?