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District Attorney candidates spending down to the wire

Friday, April 4, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Candidates for the first new Travis County District Attorney in 30 years are in the home stretch towards the April 8 runoff, with today the final day to vote early in the election. As of Thursday, only about 8,200 Travis County voters had cast early ballots. Today is the final day to vote early.


District Attorney hopefuls Mindy Montford and Rosemary Lehmberg are competing for the opportunity to replace Ronnie Earle and become the head of the important Public Integrity Section of the District Attorney’s Office. Both candidates have been well-funded during the race, and will be spending a lot on TV ads in the next few days.


David Butts, Lehmberg’s political consultant, is expecting fewer than 30,000 voters to cast ballots in the runoff—less than 20 percent of the number who voted in the March 4 Democratic primary.


Butts said his client had raised a total of about $326,000, including about $140,000 since their late February report. Noting the virtual blanket of District Attorney advertising during local news shows, he said Lehmberg has somewhat more than half the television advertising as Montford.


Montford has raised more than $560,000 total during her campaign, including $194,000 during the runoff and had just over $7,500 left over when the finance report was filed Monday.


Many of Lehmberg’s ads are negative—emphasizing the heavy lobby money in Montford’s campaign—a claim the Montford campaign denies.


Montford’s consultant Cathy Conley says recent revelations about one of Lehmberg’s consultants fomenting false rumors of Republican support for Montford have fired up Montford’s supporters.” We’re trying to get the voters out there,” she said. Sheriff Greg Hamilton did a robo-call for Montford Thursday, urging supporters to vote.


Conley said despite what the negative ads portray, only 7 percent of contributions to Montford’s campaign have come from lobbyists. Conley said if you look at Lehmberg’s contributions, “a tobacco attorney and criminal defense attorney is funding this campaign. Should we not be concerned about this?”


Lehmberg’s support comes from a mix of law firms and Democratic activists. Her largest contribution since the general election was in-kind from the $10,100 from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Other $10,000 contributions came from Nix, Patterson & Roach, attorney Roy Minton and Minton Burton Foster & Collins ($5,000 each), Williams Kherker Hart & Boundas, Progressive Action and Robert Lehmberg.


Other notables contributing to Lehmberg’s campaign include John Sharp ($500), Greg Kozmetsky ($2,500), Kerry Tate ($2,500) and George Shipley ($5,000).


Montford’s list of supporters is a Who’s Who of Capitol insiders, starting with a $75,000 contribution from former Governor and family friend Dolph Briscoe, two $10,000 contributions from Rosenthal and Watson, and Janey Marmion.


Other notables contributing include Hope Andrade ($250), Gus Garcia ($250), Manny Flores ($500), Herb Kelleher ($500) and Kent Caperton ($1,000). There were 21 $500 and $1,000 contributions from San Antonio, believed to be primarily from AT&T employees. Montford also has $25,000 in loans from her parents and even received $250 from ex-husband Brewster McCracken.


Butts said, “We had felt that Mindy’s support came from the Capitol and all those who surround the Capitol,” regardless of what Montford said. He said Lehmberg is relying on traditional “double D Democrats,” the ones who always show up to vote to help Lehmberg win. “We have a real good chance of winning but …they waged a good campaign in most ways.”

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