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Reports show Council races becoming more expensive

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 by Austin Monitor

According to reports filed with the City Clerk’s office Tuesday, Council Member Randi Shade spent $244,754 to win her Place 3 Council seat, but unlike many Council candidates, she did not finish the race in debt.


Her opponent, Jennifer Kim, who lost her seat after one term, spent nearly as much–$242,249 and the campaign still owes her $7,700 in outstanding loans.


Shade reported spending just over $60,000 in the final days of her successful campaign against Kim. She ended the reporting period with $2,100 in her campaign account. Shade’s largest expenditures were $8,000 to Austin Strategies for campaign consulting, $4,000 to Enviro Media for TV advertising, and $10,000 to Kelly Graphics for printing and mailing. Shade also repaid herself $13,000 she had loaned to the campaign. That payment was dated May 21, after she avoided a runoff election by claiming 64 percent of the vote.


Kim, spent $64,764 during the last weeks of her campaign, having taken in $17,465 in contributions during that period. She paid Ignite Consulting more than $27,000 for media during the last month of the campaign, with $7,500 going to Rindy Miller Media for TV commercials.


Almost all of the candidates from the recent City Council race had their campaign finance reports in to the City Clerk’s office by the end of business on Tuesday. It was also the deadline for incumbent Council members and Political Action Committees to report.  Only Place 4 candidates Cid Galindo and Sam Osemene’s reports had not arrived by the deadline, though they could still be in the mail.


Place 1 Council Member Lee Leffingwell raised more than $203,000 in contributions between November and May and finished the campaign with $6,724 in his campaign account. That will not be available if Leffingwell decides to seek election as Mayor next year—an option he has indicated he may consider. Any money left from the campaign must be put into an office holder account or donated to charity.


Leffingwell’s major expenditures during the first week of May were for campaign consulting services. The campaign wrote checks to David Butts, Susan Harry Consulting, and Mark Nathan’s firm Austin Strategies. Larry Schooler, who works in Leffingwell’s Council office as policy director, was also paid for campaign consulting work. That payment of $10,000 was the second-largest single expenditure during the reporting period, just under the $11,652 paid to Kelly Graphics for printing and mailing.


Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken, who was not up for re-election this spring, reports $1,312 in his officeholder account. The campaign spent $4,513 for office supplies and web site hosting during the most recent reporting period. Former Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley, who did not run for re-election after two terms on the Council, reported a balance of $6,902 in her campaign account and $17,530 in outstanding loans. An August 6 fundraiser is planned to retire that debt.


Although former State Comptroller and Texas Gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn reported that she had not received or spent any political contributions and had no funds at the end of the reporting period, the Friends of Carole Keeton Strayhorn Political Action Committee reported having more than $100,000 cash on hand on June 30. The committee indicates that the office their candidate might seek is “unknown.” Strayhorn’s son, Bradley McClellan, contributed $6,000 to the committee. Some media outlets earlier this year speculated that Strayhorn, who served as Mayor of Austin from 1977 to 1983, might seek another run at that office.


The Better Austin Today PAC reported spending $15,692 in final reporting period, mostly on TV advertising. The group did not make an endorsement in the Place 3 race between Randi Shade and Jennifer Kim. The group did endorse Laura Morrison in the Place 4 race and had backed Jason Meeker in his unsuccessful campaign against Place 1 incumbent Lee Leffingwell.


Council Member Laura Morrison, spent more than $118,000 on her runoff victory over Galindo in the Place 4 Council Race. Morrison took in $36,579 during the period between the general election and the June 14 runoff and had $9,985 in the office holder account at the end of the race.  Morrison’s biggest expense was more than $46,000 for television advertising, along with about $15,000 for direct mail advertising. Morrison finished the campaign about $40,000 in debt.


Galindo did not return a phone message left for him on Tuesday night.


Place 4 Challenger Robin Cravey finished his campaign spending $20,558 during the final 30 days of the campaign. Cravey took in $9,374 in contributions during that period and had $5,093 left on hand at the end of the campaign. His campaign owes him $15,235 in loans. Most of his expenses were for office staff and supplies.


Other candidates filing reports were Place 1 challenger Jason Meeker, who listed expenses on $5,639 on contributions of $435; Place 1 challenger Alan Demling  spent $9.30 on contributions of $4000, with $677 in outstanding loans; Place 3 candidate Kenneth Weiss listed expenses of $83, on donations of $75, with outstanding loans of $1,796; and Place 4 candidate Kenneth Vasseau listed no expenditures or donations for the period.

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