Early financial reports offer insight into city council campaigns

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Monday July 18th, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

It’s that time of year again. Candidates in the municipal elections late last week shared the amount of money they have raised so far in accordance with city policy. campaign finance reports deadline July 15. Here, we’ll break down the results of each race.

While a strong financial report does not mean a candidate is set to win in November, and poor performance does not mean a candidate loses, the report is an important indicator of a candidate’s support for the within the community and the financial means of his campaign.

For these local races, contributions are limited to $400, although donors do not have to live in Austin.

Mayor

The biggest fundraising deadline story comes from the mayoral race. Kirk Watson, former mayor and state senator, announced a transportation record $997,464 – the highest sum ever raised by a candidate for mayor or city council during the first reporting period, which runs from the beginning of January to the end of June.

“The base we are building is broad and deep,” Watson said in a Press release. According to the statement, more than 3,000 people have donated to the campaign since its launch four months ago. Watson has yet to release a political platform, although he is well known to the community.

Meanwhile, State Representative Celia Israel, who has focused her mayoral campaign on housing and affordability, raised $253,305, about a quarter less than Watson. Israel in a Press release said more than 2,000 people had donated to his campaign at an average of $125 per contribution. The statement touts the average size of her donations: “Celia has built a true grassroots campaign – entirely free of corporate contributions.”

Jennifer Virden, a conservative challenger, raised $84,506 in the first six months of this year and another $46,670 last year. Virden, having loaned his campaign $300,000, has more cash on hand than Israel.

Council member Kathie Tovo also had explored the mayoral candidacy in recent months, but announcement Friday that she no longer intends to run. Tovo, however, teased a future run, saying, “After a lot of soul-searching, I’ve decided not to run for mayor…this year.”

Additionally, student contestant Phil Brual said he raised $250. Erica Nix and Anthony Bradshaw said they did not raise any money. And, on Sunday, Gary Spellman’s report was not posted on the city’s website, despite previously saying he would withhold all donations to his campaign.

District 1

Based on contributions alone, District 1 is the most unbalanced race. Outgoing Council member Natasha Harper-Madison raised $113,973 – more than a hundred times more than the $1,060 in contributions raised by her only competitor, Clinton Rarey. Harper-Madison spent nearly $14,899 and loaned her campaign $9,502.

District 3

The District 3 candidate fundraising totals show a slightly more crowded and competitive field. Top fundraiser José Velásquez raised $44,351, nearly four times as much as the closest candidate, “young progressive” Daniela Silva. Velasquez has the support of various politicians and small businesses. Below are the full results:

The winner will replace Council member Pio Renteria, who has reached the end of his term.

District 5

The race to succeed District 5 Representative Ann Kitchen, who is also declared absentee, appears to be one of the most intriguing. Several viable candidates have emerged, and all have raised substantial funds.

Stephanie Bazan, a self-described ‘Austinite native and working mom’ announcement on Facebook that she has raised $54,000 so far in her campaign. Detailed July numbers are not yet available on the city’s website, however, and Bazan did not immediately respond to a press request. Some information comes from a tweet by Austin American Statesman journalist Ryan Autullo. In the same tweet, Autullo said Aaron Webman raised $108,000, which includes a $50,000 loan from him. Webman could not be reached.

Ryan Alter — no relation to Pro Tem Mayor Alison Alter — is a former member of Kirk Watson’s Senate staff. Ken Craig is Kitchen’s political adviser and Bill Welch is an entrepreneur.

District 8

Outgoing District 8 council member Paige Ellis faces only one declared challenger so far, conservative-leaning Richard Smith. Ellis, who raised $43,748 in the last reporting period for a total of $99,987 in contributions, edged Smith 3:1. Ellis, having spent just $3,049 in the last six month, has $100,813 — the maximum of all council candidates at this point (mayoral candidates excluded).

Smith has raised $36,131 in total, including $24,936 since January. He has $41,228 on hand, partly thanks to a $16,000 loan.

District 9

The District 9 race was one of the most anticipated, with four city planner candidates – Ben Leffler, Zo Qadri, Joah Spearman and Tom Wald – competing not only against each other, but also against Linda Guerrero, who has been approved by Tovo. All five candidates have strong financial results.

Another candidate, Jason Hyde, filed a report but received no contributions beyond a $109 loan for himself. Political watchers expect the crowded race to head to a second round.

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