January 24, 2022 6:00am

San Antonio respondents tend to favor O'Rourke

Results from San Antonio's inaugural Power Poll survey indicate support for the top Democratic gubernatorial candidate

Photo of Brendan Gibbons
San Antonio, TX Correspondent

Thank you for participating in San Antonio's inaugural Power Poll, a monthly survey of our community's movers and shakers. This month's poll dealt with some big news topics that have dominated local headlines over the past several weeks.

The parties' top picks for governor

This month's poll began with a question on the most-publicized candidates for Texas governor on the ballot in November. On the Republican side, the presumed frontrunner is two-term incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. So far, the Democrat with the most name recognition is Beto O'Rourke, who in 2018 lost a Senate race before an unsuccessful 2020 bid for president.

Respondents to this month’s Power Poll overwhelmingly favored O’Rourke, with 50% choosing him, compared to 29% for Abbott. Another 21% chose “neither of the above.”

Of course, we don't know whether Abbott or O'Rourke will end up being their respective party's nominee. On the Republican side, Abbott faces seven primary challengers, while the Democrats have four other primary contenders besides O’Rourke. Texas's primary isn't until March 1. Early voting begins Feb. 14.

Recent coverage suggests that neither candidate is overwhelmingly popular with Texas voters in his party. O’Rourke’s strong 2018 campaign was somewhat overshadowed by his speedy presidential loss, when he failed to win a single state’s primary. His most famous soundbite of the campaign — “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15” — would surely reappear in a general election campaign.

At the same time, Abbott is struggling under the political weight of February 2021’s Winter Storm Uri and the gnawing notion that his administration and the Republican-dominated Legislature haven’t fully addressed the underlying problems that led to the worst power crisis in a single state in U.S. history. An October 2021 Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll regisitered more disapproval than approval of Abbott's job as governor.

Abbott also faces fierce primary challenges from the right from the likes of Don Huffines and Allen West (not to mention Rick-Perry-but-not-that-Rick-Perry). Perhaps in an attempt to bolster his credentials among primary voters, Abbott’s recent campaign ads have focused on his record on border security.

I have no idea how any of this will turn out, but you can expect future Power Polls to include more questions about the most engaging 2022 political races in Texas and Bexar County.

CPS Energy rate increase

This week, we also asked you to weigh in on some big news from last week, when City Council voted 8-3 to give San Antonio's municipally owned electric and gas utility a 3.84% rate increase.

CPS Energy officials have said they need the rate increase, the utility’s first in eight years, to maintain financial health. However, San Antonio’s electric and natural gas provider has been dogged since the February 2021 winter storm by issues of communication, transparency, and lavish spending among some of its top executives, many of whom have departed in the past year.

The majority of this month’s Power Poll respondents seem to have agreed that the utility really did need this financial boost. A whopping 79% approved of City Council’s decision to OK the rate hike. Another 12% disapproved, with 9% logging “no opinion.”

It could be that after eight years of no increase, Power Poll participants aren’t feeling rate hike fatigue. The rate increase of 3.84% was revised also significantly revised downward from an initial 10% rate hike proposed in early 2021.

The recent exodus of top staff, including former CEO Paula Gold-Williams could also have somewhat satisfied public outcry for accountability after the winter storm. Finally, it might have been the $31 million that CPS Energy officials committed to spending on weatherization so its equipment can operate more effectively in cold snaps like the one we’re feeling this week.

COVID-19 situation

San Antonio has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, affecting hospitals, schools, and large employers. Now that a little more than a month has passed since this variant was first detected in our city, we asked about your view on the overall situation — are things getting better, or are they getting worse?

The majority of respondents — 56% — took the pessimistic view, saying that the situation is getting worse, overall. That’s not a huge surprise, given the drastic headlines we’ve seen day after day — staff shortages at local hospitals and clinics, the difficulty of getting COVID-19 testing, and ever-rising case counts.

Another 38% responded that things are staying about the same compared to a month ago, with 9% saying that things are getting better.

I think we can all at least hope that time will prove the more optimistic folks right.

Feedback wanted for San Antonio's Power Poll

Is there a question or topic you'd like to see covered in a future poll? A friend or colleague who should be on our list but isn't? I would welcome any suggestions about how to improve this experience at bgibbons@powerpoll.com.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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