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Watson, Wynn burying opponents with an avalanche of big spending

Tuesday, May 2, 2000 by

Alvarez and Quintanilla more closely matched, as are Lewis and Thomas

The mayoral and City Council elections will be held this Saturday, May 6, but for most candidates the fund-raising has produced slim pickings this year. With the weak opposition giving incumbent Mayor Kirk Watson a de facto, no-contest win, his fund-raising efforts have been ratcheted down geometrically in 2000 vis-a-vis 1997. As a newcomer to city politics he raised $749,305 and loaned himself another $65,000 to boost his spending power to more than $809,000 in the 1997 election, in which he was battling incumbent Council Member Ronney Reynolds for the mayor's job. Now with the City Charter limiting contributions to $100 per person, the tide has gone out on the ocean of $5,000 contributors who floated Watson's boat in 1997. Watson reported contributions of $18,121 in his report for donations in the latest reporting period ending April 28. Combined with the $114,168 Watson reported collecting through April 6 and $1,200 through early January brings his total contributions to date to a rather anemic (for him) $133,649. Watson's major expenditures to date include a combined $22,300 for consultants David Butts, Barbara Rush and Heather Stone, and $56,850 for Rindy Miller Bates to buy television time and produce TV commercials.

By contrast, the three mayoral challengers have raised a combined total of $190. Albert Leslie Cochran has reported no contributions to date and spent $40 to advertise his campaign on Austin community television. Jennifer Lauren Gale raised $150 and spent it on copying for signs that have been stapled to telephone poles and taped onto other public infrastructure. Dale Adrian Reed has reported no contributions but expended $692 on yard signs, copies and faxes.

Place 2 sees Quintanilla with edge in dollar derby

Rafael Quintanilla is pulling away in fund-raising with a grand total of nearly $56,000 for the last two reporting periods. He's running his own campaign and has paid his daughter Patricia Camacho a grand total of $2,000 to date. Virtually all the rest of his $41,000 in expenditures to date have been poured into yard signs and several major mass mailings, and he still had about $15,000 left in the kitty through the latest report.

Raul Alvarez, Quintanilla's main opponent, was the only candidate in this race to have raised money as of the Jan. 15 report, netting $8,000 at that time (including a $1,500 loan he made to the campaign). Alvarez added $23,841 in contributions through April 6 and another $13,842 through April 26 to bring his grand total to $45,273. Alvarez spent nearly $14,000 of that amount on consultants Blizzard Fawal & Associates, campaign manager Matt Watson and campaign worker Joseph Martinez. Altogether, Alvarez has burned through $37,000 of his bankroll, leaving a balance of around $8,000. About $900 of his expenditures have been made for printing to spread the message through volunteer distribution of fliers door-to-door and $3,200 in postage to distribute mailers and to announce small neighborhood fund-raisers sponsored by supporters.

The contrasts between expenditures for Quintanilla and Alvarez are as different as day and night. Although both have yard signs, Quintanilla so far has relied for the most part on repeated mass mailings while Alvarez has depended on a strong force of grass-roots volunteers to hand carry the message to voters.

The other candidates in this race have raised sums that pale in comparison to Quintanilla and Alvarez. Gloria Mata Pennington raised $1,955 through April 6 and added $1,095 through April 27 for a total of $3,050 to date. Of that she spent $1,055 for television ads on KXAN-TV 36 and nearly $1,000 on yard signs and stakes, with lesser amounts for copies and postage. Montgomery Lee "Monty" Markland has raised $850 to date but has spent more than $4,000, the bulk of it for yard signs and associated supplies. David Henry "Breadman" Blakely has raised $300 to date and loaned his campaign $400. Raymond Blanchette has not submitted reports.

In Place 5 Wynn pushes in his own big bucks

William Patrick Wynn is the runaway big spender of all the council races. Although he has collected about two and a half times as much in contributions as his nearest opponent in this race, $35,675, Wynn has pumped $45,000 of his own money into the campaign to bring the grand total to $80,675. Of that amount, $45,000 went to Rindy Miller Bates for television ads; $6,250 for campaign workers Pat Crow, Amanda Acklin and Frederick Lopez; $5,100 for postage for mass mailings; $4,500 for printing yard signs; and $3,000 for other printing. Clearly, Wynn is pursuing a strategy of burying his opponents in the general election in hopes of escaping a runoff.

Mary Clare Barry has collected contributions totaling $13,955 to date, or about 17 percent of the amount Wynn has at his disposal. Barry has spent $3,600 on printing, plus $3,600 on consultants Blizzard Fawal & Associates and Melissa Miller, and $500 for campaign worker Kathryn Otto. She spent $2,000 on postage.

Linda Jean Curtis has raised $3,083 and borrowed $7,500 from Norwest Bank, bringing total spending power to $10,583. She spent $2,150 on mailings, $1,250 on yard signs, $690 on printing, $690 on campaign help from Donna Stanley and Debra Reyes, and $660 on postage.

Paul Roger "Chip" Howe has raised $5,381 to date. He also took loans totaling $4,000, including $3,000 from Michael Zitz-Evancih and $1,000 from Tattoos From the Soul Inc. This brings his dollar firepower to $9,381. He has paid former Council Member Max Nofziger $4,300 in consulting fees, plus $400 for yard signs and $254 for advertising, and he made a $100 contribution to the Austin Women's Political Caucus.

Amy Juliet Babich has raised $390 to date and spent $240. Half of that was spent on food and drinks for the Human Power Party, and $70 was spent on copies.

Place 6 incumbent struggling for money

Council Member Willie Lewis has the advantage not only of name recognition but the power of the incumbency in fund-raising. Still, his total contributions to date of $25,530 raise questions about support for his reelection. Even with the same $100 contribution limits in the 1999 council races, at this point in the campaigns last year incumbent Beverly Griffith had raised $85,000, Daryl Slusher had raised $62,600, and Jackie Goodman had raised $50,515, the latter without going all out in view of having a single, weak opponent. (See In Fact No. 191, April 27, 1999.) In other words, Lewis has raised barely more than half of what the least-well-funded incumbent raised last year. Lewis spent the bulk of his money so far on people, including $7,500 for campaign manager David Terrell, $3,300 for campaign worker Heather Paslay, $4,000 for consultants Blizzard Fawal & Associates, and $1,500 for consultant Todd Main.

Challenger Danny Thomas is no ball of fire in the fund-raising department, pulling in contributions of $6,240 to date, but he has friends lending a big hand in the form of independent expenditures. As reported by In Fact Daily April 25, 27 and 28, the Austin Police Political Action Committee (AP PAC) has laid out $9,800 for campaign signs and political mailers while Thomas Henderson kicked in $25,000 to buy newspaper ads and television time. (Henderson's expenses were actually $23,400 in the corrected report filed April 28.) Combining contributions directly to Thomas with those of Henderson and AP PAC produces a total of $39,600–or $14,000 more than the incumbent.

Thomas spent $925 on print ads, $900 on telephones, $760 on push cards to hand out, $650 for campaign consultant Linda Dailey, and $548 on food for fund-raisers and campaign meals.

Nelson Elester Linder, the third candidate in the race, signed a statement early in his campaign that he did not intend to raise or spend more than $500 including the filing fee, but he obviously changed his mind later. Although his report is totally noncompliant as to format and thus difficult to analyze, it appears that Linder raised $2,193 in contributions and contributed $2,777 of his own money. Of that he spent $2,336 on print ads and $1,441 on signs.

Rumor control… Jim Walker of the Mueller Neighborhoods Coalition visited the Save Barton Creek Association meeting last night to tell environmentalists not to worry about rumors surrounding a possible deal between the city and Stratus Properties. Walker said city officials have told him that discussions are going on with Stratus that are similar to conversations leading to the deal between the city and Gary Bradley. Walker said the coalition just wants to make sure the city does not forget goals for Mueller, such as affordable housing, if there is a deal including Mueller. Walker said he is concerned that rumors about the neighborhoods opposing such a deal might get started. Rumors like that could be "used to pit neighborhoods and environmentalists against each other," Walker said. He urged environmentalists to call him if they have such concerns in the future… Water friendly landscaping…On Saturday, May 6, the city's Watershed Protection Department and Texas Agricultural Extension Service will launch Grow Green to bring citizens and participating gardening retailers information about environmentally sensitive alternatives for landscaping problems. Information will be distributed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Zilker Garden Fest. For more info, call Kathy Shay at 499-2446 or visit the web site at www.growgreen.org… Clean river…Also on Saturday May 6, some 100 area Boy Scouts will celebrate the return of high water quality on the Colorado River below Austin by canoeing the river between Austin and Bastrop. The Back to the River event will cover a 10-mile segment of the river. Joe Beal, general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority, said, "I am proud that, thanks to the teamwork of the LCRA and the City of Austin, this segment of the river is now one of the cleanest in the state and can be enjoyed by the Boy Scouts and anyone else who loves the Colorado River." This is a dramatic improvement from the mid-1980s when this segment was one of the most polluted in the state because of Austin's poorly treated sewage.

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