SAN ANTONIO - In less than two weeks you'll be voting on a tax increase to provide Pre-K for San Antonio kids. The outcome may hinge on the efforts of one man.
Not Mayor Castro, but rather, a behind-the-scenes player who's had a huge role in shaping our city. News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila has the Inside Story on the most influential political figure you've never heard of.
He doesn't work out of City Hall, but he's convinced voters to elect the past two mayors and pay for some of the most expensive projects in the city's history.
To some, Christian Archer is a political guru with a Midas touch. To others, he's a hired gun brought in to sell voters on tax increases and bond borrowing.
“The great thing about it is in the last eight years we've really gotten a lot of things done and it's been fun,” Archer says.
Long before he was put in charge of Pre-K for S.A., Archer helped elect mayors in Houston and Austin.
Then he became campaign manager for former Mayor Phil Hardberger, when he defeated a young councilman named Julian Castro in a tight election.
“I give a lot of the credit to Christian Archer in making things go our way on that,” Hardberger told us. “Obviously Julian thought he did a good job because once I wasn't mayor, Julian hired him.”
Archer then became Julian Castro's campaign manager and helped him win the mayor's race. He remains campaign manager for both Julian and his brother, Joaquin.
“He's good at what he does, he's been good these last few years. Certainly for mayor Hardberger. So, I definitely appreciated having him on board,” Mayor Castro told us.
Archer's winning touch extended to other kinds of elections. In 2007 he persuaded voters to pass the biggest bond measure in city history: $550-million for libraries, parks and street improvements.
Then he worked to pass an even larger bond measure earlier this year: $596-million.
He ran the successful campaign to change the term limits for mayors and council members, extending them from four years to eight.
In 2010 he got voters to raise the sales tax for Propositions 1 and 2, protecting the aquifer and building trails along area creeks.
“You seem to be the guy who gets the tough assignments, to sell them to the public,” Jaie Avila pointed out during the interview.
“What I do is prepare and go out into the community, and build the support behind the different initiatives that the mayor has tasked me with,” responded Archer.
Now the Texas State grad and New Braunfels resident may be facing his toughest challenge: getting voters to approve an eighth-of-a-cent sales tax hike for Pre-K, at a time when many people are weary of sprawling government programs.
“We have a track record, with Mayor Castro, of investing in the future, and there's no better investment than our children and making sure we've got a smart, well educated work force.”
And while you're deciding whether to vote for the Pre-K plan, Archer is already looking ahead to the next campaign.
“Julian's re-election is coming up in May. We're going to get through November, and then we're going to immediately charge up and say, ‘Does anybody really want to challenge us? Because if you do, we are going to run you over like a Mack truck. Who wants a piece? Because we're ready.’”
If Pre-K goes down to defeat, however, the Mack truck may lose some steam.