by Andrea DruschMay 7, 2023
Five years ago Marc Whyte was an also-ran in a Texas House race. Next month, he’ll be taking a seat on the San Antonio City Council dais with the blessing of the city’s GOP establishment.
Whyte, a business attorney, will replace Clayton Perry, keeping City Council District 10 in conservative hands.
Perry, currently the council’s only conservative member, decided not to seek a fourth term after a November hit-and-run car crash. He was recently sentenced to 12 months of deferred adjudication.
Whyte made his political debut in 2018, finishing fifth in the 2018 Republican primary for Texas House District 121 when former House Speaker Joe Straus retired.
“Straus left at the last minute in 2018 and I said, ‘What the heck, let’s try it,’” Whyte said in a recent interview.
“We did great,” he added, pointing to his fundraising for that race. “But what I did not realize is that [state House Rep.] Steve Allison had lived right here for 70 years, and that was going to be too much to overcome.”
This time around Whyte, who served as Perry’s appointee to the city’s Zoning Commission, had the backing of past and present GOP office holders, the police union and two business-backed political action committees, who helped him raise more money than any other city candidate besides Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
He entered the crowded City Council race with little name identification, but was able to win outright, while Marina Alderete Gavito, another business-backed candidate seeking an open seat, was headed to a June 10 runoff in District 7.
“This is sort of a culmination of 10 years of work,” Whyte said at an election watch party at the Barn Door on Saturday. “… We’re here now, and I’m humbled by the belief that those folks have had in me.”
In a field of seven candidates, Whyte took almost 58% of the vote.
Labor groups and the Northeast Bexar County Democrats hoped to give him more of a fight in a district that supported Democrat Beto O’Rourke for governor in November. They supported bike activist Bryan Martin, a first-time candidate who ended up fourth with 7%.
Electrical engineer Joel Solis, who also sought the endorsement of the Northeast Bexar County Democrats, finished second with 12.8%. Longtime government affairs representative Robert Flores, who sits on the board of the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, was third with 8.4%.
District 10 was among a handful of Northside council districts where voter turnout was dramatically impacted by opponents of a proposed charter amendment known as Proposition A. The district accounted for almost 15% of the city’s early votes, and Semmes Library was the city’s second most popular voting location during early voting.
Whyte, 42, was joined by his wife Lorien and their two young daughters Ashlynn and Olivia at his watch party Saturday night. Interim San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President David Petersen, one of the leaders behind a political action committee aimed at defeating Proposition A, was also in attendance.
Perry won the seat in a hard-fought runoff with environmental lawyer Ezra Johnson in 2017, and held it through a spirited rematch in 2021, when District 10 voter turnout was roughly 23.5%, according to data provided by SA2020.
Less than two years later the same district gave O’Rourke 54% of its vote in the 2022 midterm, an election in which the district’s voter turnout was close to 50%.
This year Johnson passed on the race, after internal polling conducted in January showed he was the second choice of independent voters, behind Perry.
Although Martin raised little money for the race, outside groups and party leaders chose him over Solis, who has been involved in local Democratic politics since moving back from Washington, D.C., in 2021.
High school teacher Rick Otley, a former television and print journalist, took 3.5%. Marketing and fundraising professional Madison Gutierrez took 6%.
‘Common ground to be found’
District 10 is likely to remain the council’s only conservative-held seat.
Whyte has been active in local Republican politics, helping with GOP state House campaigns. After his unsuccessful state House bid, Allison helped him get an appointment from Gov. Greg Abbott to the state’s Public Transportation Advisory Commission.
“When Mark stood up before the Northeast Neighborhood Alliance and spoke to all of us, the one thing that was quite obvious is there was one guy there who had done everything that they needed to do to be a member of city council,” Northeast Neighborhood Alliance President Mike Gallagher said at Whyte’s election party Saturday night.
“Those neighborhood leaders took that message to the neighborhoods, and thank heaven they did,” Gallagher said.
Whyte has also built relationships in city government through serving on the city’s Ethics Review Board, the Port San Antonio board and Leadership San Antonio.Through those experiences, he says he’s already shown his ability to seek consensus and work in a nonpartisan role.
“I believe everybody on this City Council, as well as the mayor, wants to do right by the people,” Whyte said. “When that’s the case, then there’s common ground to be found, so I look forward to working with the mayor, [and] I look forward to working with the other members of City Council.”