Former TX Secretary of State appears to soft-launch San Antonio mayoral run with ‘think tank’

SAN ANTONIO – A former Texas Secretary of State appears to be soft-launching a San Antonio mayoral run with the creation of a new nonprofit to create a “public policy blueprint” ahead of the May 2025 race.

Rolando Pablos, who served under Gov. Greg Abbott in 2017 and 2018 and is currently the head of an international trade advisory company, has been widely expected to enter the open mayor’s seat race.

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But instead of kicking off a traditional campaign, Pablos announced Thursday he had founded a new group, FutureFirst SA, which a spokesman compared to a non-partisan think tank.

“This next mayoral election offers us both a rare and unique opportunity to reassess and redefine our expectations of our next mayor and city government,” Pablos wrote in a Thursday morning email announcement. “It is also a chance to define the top policy priorities that our community believes the next mayor ought to champion.”

The new group’s website states its “sole mission is to develop pragmatic policy solutions aimed at helping San Antonio become a more prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive city for all residents.”

However, it also prominently features Pablos as the group’s “founder” and includes a lengthy biography.

To political insiders, it’s an obvious pseudo-entrance into the mayor’s race.

“There’s no question about it. This is the opening salvo in Rolando Pablos’ exploration to be the next mayor of San Antonio,” said political consultant Christian Archer.

Archer said Pablos is a friend to whom he has given advice. However, he has not been hired by Pablos or any other potential candidate.

Archer also said he hadn’t known about the new group, which he praised as “very smart.”

The nonprofit gives Pablos a way to raise both money and his visibility with voters before he officially announces a mayoral run and faces a $1,000 per person cap on campaign contributions.

“He can’t use money to say, ‘I’m running for office, support me.’ None of that,” Archer said. “But naturally, he’ll raise his profile by spending money saying, ‘let’s have a conversation about what the future looks like.’”

FutureFirst SA is the assumed name of Invigorate San Antonio, which Pablos formed as a 501(c)4 on Feb. 24, according to Texas Secretary of State records.

The FutureFirst SA name did not appear during a Thursday search of the state records, nor did either name appear as a tax-exempt organization on the Internal Revenue Service website. However, a spokesman said paperwork had been submitted for both.

With Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s fourth, two-year term ending in 2025, the mayor’s seat will be wide open for the first time since Phil Hardberger left in 2009, when there was a two-term limit.

However, despite the opportunity and a host of rumored possible candidates, the race is also on the other side of a presidential election. Only two people have publicly launched campaigns: Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) and Councilman John Courage (D9).

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