Candidate Rudy Lopez offers fresh ideas for District 5

Megan Armstrong San Antonio News Leave a Comment

Recently, while on the District 5 campaign trail, council candidate Rudy Lopez received first-hand experience about an unresolved city issue when he was pursued, then bitten by a roaming dog.

In hindsight, the neighborhood leader has a sense of humor about the incident. “When you’re walking, you shouldn’t have to be running away from a dog that wants to attack you, right?” Lopez says via phone, still chuckling.

“I know that we need improvements with Animal Care Services, and some major education in [the district] about how to take care of your pets,” he adds. “Maybe some spay/neuter programs so there won’t be so many loose animals in District 5.”

Lopez, 51, is in a tense runoff against progressive Teri Castillo, an energetic housing advocate, for the District 5 seat on San Antonio City Council. The winner of this election will usher in a new era for the West Side district, as incumbent Shirley Gonzales has reached the end of her term limit. 

READ MORE: Progressive Teri Castillo offers a new direction for District 5

On polling day, 11 candidates competed for the open seat and a total of 6,769 votes were cast in the district. Castillo captured 30.7 percent of the votes (2,077 votes) and Lopez trailed with 14.7 percent (991 votes). Because neither candidate surpassed the 50 percent threshold, the contest will be decided in a June 5 runoff along with four other council races.

Lopez, a retired City employee, has spent the last eight years honing his skills as a hyper-local community leader. In this role as the vice president, then president of the Thompson Neighborhood Association, he worked directly with Gonzales’ office throughout her tenure, establishing a working relationship with the councilwoman whose leadership he has since publicly praised. She later appointed Lopez to serve on three city commissions, which gave him the experience of collaborating with developers to bring more services to San Antonio’s geographically smallest council district. 

“One of the biggest things that everybody knows about…they can’t miss it…is the Baptist Emergency Hospital at Cupples and 90,” he says. “That was a two-year project to bring that hospital into our community. Prior to that, we didn’t have any emergency hospitals in District 5.”

If elected, Lopez also plans to enhance senior services. 

“That [is a matter] I hold closest to my heart,” he says tenderly. “I take care of both my parents. They’re in their late 80s already.”

“In District 5, we’ve got an aging group of people,” he continues. “Senior services is first for me because I know how hard it is for seniors to get the services all of our seniors deserve.”

Lopez reminds me that there are many grandparents in his district who are raising their grandchildren. 

“So we need to make sure we have good afterschool and youth programs so kids are not just hanging out at home or hanging out in the streets,” he says.

READ MORE: ‘It is a truly a 24/7 job:’ Police spokeswoman reveals what it’s like working for SAPD as a mom

“Since I started walking in January for my campaign, one of the universal things that I heard out there, more than COVID-19, was public safety,” he says, still surprised by these findings. “There are a lot of people out there in District 5 who think we need more officers — of course, we need better officers — and better response time.”

According to Lopez, the failure of Proposition B, the ballot measure that was defeated by two percentage points, indicates that residents continue to be concerned about police reform.

“We need some accountability with our officers as you would with any other public servant,” he says. “We also need to make sure that we are putting out the best officers that we can put out, officers that are invested in the communities.” 

Lopez won Gonzales’ endorsement, but makes it clear that, if he wins, his term in office would not be an echo of his predecessor’s administration.

“First of all, I’m not Shirley Gonzales,” he says. “I’m coming in with fresh thoughts and fresh ideas. Shirley knows me and so does her staff. If Shirley gives me an endorsement, it’s because she knows the work that I’ve done.” 

Lopez also won endorsements from State Rep. Ina Minjarez and the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

“Camp Lopez is very excited,” he intones with enthusiasm. “Camp Lopez is very unified.” 

The political newcomer describes his campaign as “extremely grassroots. I started off walking by myself,” he says. 

Later, his family and friends joined in, meeting every weekend for a hearty breakfast at the Arizona Café, before a busy day of knocking on doors.

“It’s been really exciting and I know my family is very excited about helping me to get to this point,” he says. “It brought such joy to them and smiles to their faces to see me get to the runoffs.”

Election Day is June 5. 

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