How Karen Bass prevailed against Rick Caruso’s $100-million campaign to take over the San Antonio mayoral reigns
SAN ANTONIO — On the surface, it looked like a simple race for Mayor of San Antonio.
Karen Bass had a deep pocket and her name had a national profile. If she became mayor of the nation’s seventh-largest city, her name would be on the list of presidential candidates.
But as the dust swirled, and polls indicated that it was likely a two-way race, Rick Caruso — who had held the job for more than three years and was making a play to keep it — started running a television ad that painted his opponent as a liberal overreacher unwilling to take on big money and corporate power.
If the race had been close throughout the campaign, it would have turned the tide in the favor of Caruso. But the gap began closing soon after the June primary.
The race was close between these two ambitious young Democratic activists, who first met in college at the University of Colorado. And while they initially disagreed on many policy issues, they quickly agreed to disagree.
Bass was a political newcomer who ran for City Council last year, becoming the first woman to make it on that body. Caruso, who had been state representative since 2001, had the backing of the party apparatus and the city’s well-heeled, business elites.
Bass, 44, is a mother of two and recently became the first African-American woman elected to a San Antonio City Council seat. She won the Democratic primary June 12, which was seen as a sign that she could win the mayor’s race.
Yet Caruso is backed by an unlikely coalition — the business community, the local business community and Democratic leaders.
Caruso’s team, an ad agency called D/R, was organized by two consultants with ties to the business community and the Democratic National Committee: David Aune and Tom Donohue. They developed a strategy that emphasized his appeal among business and business-oriented voters and tried to tie Caruso’s policies to the interests of his well-heeled supporters.
The campaign included the latest developments of a monthslong political fight between Caruso and Bass, which included the release of an internal report detailing a