The Old Gray Mayor

Weary of youth and inexperience, San Antonians talk about needing to put a grown-up in charge—namely, septuagenarian Phil Hardberger. But the real problem at city hall is the strictest term-limits law in Texas.

SAN ANTONIO’S mayoral races tend to be long-running telenovelas—pitched battles with stark choices, high stakes, roiling emotion, and plenty of drama. Past elections have pitted Anglos against Hispanics, Republicans against Democrats, and environmentalists against business boosters. The May 7 election is still months away, but already two new twists have been added to the plot: insiders against outsiders and youth against age. The leading candidates are Julián Castro, a thirty-year-old city councilman who is one of the state’s rising Hispanic political stars; Carroll Schubert, a pro-business councilman who is a former Republican precinct chairman; and Phil Hardberger, a seventy-year-old retired appellate judge who has long been active in Democratic politics.

It is the presence of Hardberger, a newcomer to the nonpartisan politics of city hall, that makes this race different from all that have gone before. It’s an unwritten rule here that outsiders don’t run for mayor; for more than half a century, the position has been reserved for insiders who have served on the city council. The rule held true in the


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