COMMENTARY by BRAD ROLLINS
When the dust settled after the end of candidate filing on Monday, council member Ryan Thomason was unopposed and thus virtually ensured a second term. Mayor Daniel Guerrero and council member Shane Scott did draw opponents but not, at first glance, challengers picked from the top tier of neighborhood and environment prospects.
With pro-neighborhood elements seemingly on the ascendancy for months now, Thomason, a building contractor, had been girding for a battle royale in which he would have been forced to defend controversial votes in support of the Sessom Drive and Buie tract projects and, inevitably, his own business relationships with local developers. Instead, he gets a pass.
Celebrating his political good fortune yesterday evening, Thomason said the scant field of council hopefuls reinforces his view that most of San Marcos is silently supportive of new development, within reason.
Thomason thinks of himself as independent-minded on zoning and land use questions and always notes that he voted against The Retreat at San Marcos and the Hillside Ranch student housing projects. But public outcry over the Sessom Drive apartments dwarfed all others and, prior to Monday, Thomason was certain that he faced a slog to re-election.
“We were told over and over that 2,000 people had signed a petition and they thought our position on it was unthinkable. After all the accusations and threats and the ‘Not Here. Not Now. Not Ever’ rhetoric, not one person felt strongly enough about it to file for a place on the ballot against me,” Thomason said. “I think that says something about how San Marcos thinks we’re doing as a council.”
Guerrero and Scott fared less well but they aren’t exactly facing the cream of the crop, either, in terms of their opponents’ chances. Election Day is Nov. 6.
No one is saying that Thomas Prentice, who is running for mayor, or Greg Frank, who is running against Scott, aren’t credible challengers or can’t mount credible campaigns. But let’s just say the deck is stacked against them and neither has come out of the starting gate with a show of strength or savvy.
Prentice, 52, holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas and appears to have a history of engagement in Democratic Party politics. Both resume points could be helpful in a left-leaning college town.
But let’s be real about it. Late August is a late date to launch a mayoral campaign against Guerrero, a lifelong resident with reserves of good will squirreled away in hundreds of places around town. Election Day is 76 days from today. That’s a awfully short runway for Prentice, who has lived here for less than two years.
Scott’s race is a little harder to handicap. Like Prentice, Frank, 31, has to meet a lot of voters — and make a good impression — in a short period of time. The extent of Frank’s involvement in San Marcos municipal affairs appears to be a speech he gave last year in favor of banning single-use plastic bags and one he gave earlier this month in support of purchasing Cape’s Camp as parkland. The latter speech was, more or less, the Wikipedia entry for — you guessed it — parkland. (Frank originally filed to run against Thomason but switched to Scott’s race last week.)
On the other hand, just two years ago, Scott was little-known himself in San Marcos’ political and business establishments and not much better versed on the issues than is Frank. That’s when he won a comfortable majority over a retired cop and prolific community volunteer, surprising just about everyone who pays attention to these things. Even more surprising: He won with a larger margin than did his three colleagues on the same ballot including council veterans Guerrero and Kim Porterfield as well as Jude Prather, who already had one citywide campaign under his belt at that point.
In other words, anything can happen. In San Marcos, it often does. I can’t think of a better place to look foolish saying something won’t happen here — whether you are talking about “now” or “ever”.