June 14, 2015 / 8:16 AM / 4 years ago

Hispanic majority San Antonio elects African-American mayor

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - San Antonio, the seventh-largest U.S. city and the only one of the 10 largest cities with a Hispanic majority, elected its first African-American mayor on Saturday in a closely watched runoff election.

Ivy Taylor, a Yale-educated urban planning professor, won with an unlikely coalition of the city’s two largest minority voting groups, blacks and generally conservative white voters, the latter comprising just 26 percent of the 1.4 million population.

Taylor was appointed interim mayor last summer, when Julian Castro resigned to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, winning the seat outright in Saturday’s runoff with 52 percent against one of the state’s best-known politicians.

Leticia Van de Putte, vying to become the city’s first elected Hispanic woman mayor, has been a prominent member of the Texas State Legislature for 25 years and was the Democratic Party nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2014.

Van de Putte held a solid lead in the May election that attracted 14 candidates, but state law mandating a winner must receive more than 50 percent of votes forced the runoff.

Taylor appealed to conservatives in the non-partisan race by stressing Van de Putte’s long ties to the Democratic Party, including co-chairing the 2008 Democratic National Convention which nominated Barack Obama, who remains unpopular in Texas.

Her openly Christian faith appealed to evangelicals, a powerful Republican Party faction in Texas.

In her victory speech on Saturday night, Taylor said, “I thank the Lord,” for her election.

Van de Putte, seen as a pro-business moderate, stressed traditional Democratic themes such as raising the minimum wage and her endorsement by police and fire unions.

She appealed largely to the city’s working class Hispanic voters, who, while making up a majority of the city’s population, have traditionally voted in smaller numbers than whites.

Conceding defeat, Van de Putte told Taylor, “I will stand with you each and every day to make this a great American city.”

Editing by Chris Michaud; and Clarence Fernandez

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