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January campaign finance filings are here

Monday, January 18, 2016 by Austin Monitor

It’s January, and that means that local elections are starting to heat up. Jan. 15 campaign finance reports are in, offering insight into spring elections and crumbs for speculation about fall elections.

For candidates seeking office in Travis County this year, it’s a dead sprint between now and the March 1 primaries, and after Friday’s filing deadline, we have a good idea of how well-financed those respective runs will be.

In the race for the Democratic nomination for sheriff, Don Rios leads the pack with a reported $64,036 in contributions since July. Lakeway Police Chief Todd Radford follows him with $52,660 in contributions, while Constable Sally Hernandez reported $46,083 in donations. Former Austin Police Lt. John Sisson raised only $7,465 but has more than $50,000 on hand thanks to a large loan. The lone Republican in the race, Joe Martinez, reported $1,275 in donations.

In the race for the Democratic nomination to replace outgoing Precinct 1 Commissioner Ron Davis, data on the Travis County Clerk’s website was available on Sunday evening only for two of the four candidates. Of those two, James Nortey had outraised Jeffrey Travillion $45,974 to $39,248.

Meanwhile, Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty’s quest for re-election is facing headwinds from a relatively well-financed challenger. Attorney Jason Nassour reported a fundraising haul of $14,950, while Daugherty – who waited until November to announce he would run again – brought in $9,200. Democrat David Holmes, who is running unopposed for his party’s nomination, raked in $4,455. As of Sunday night, there were no data available for the three Democratic candidates running for district attorney.

On Friday, the Austin Independent School District trustees also turned in their biannual finance reports, with one missing report – that of Board President Gina Hinojosa – being particularly notable. Hinojosa is currently running for the District 49 seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Hinojosa filed her final report last year, which showed no contributions or expenditures, and has closed her AISD campaign account.

There will be a total of five AISD board seats up for grabs in November. Those seats include Hinojosa’s at-large position, District 5 Amber Elenz’s seat, District 2 Jayme Mathias’s seat, District 3 Ann Teich’s seat and District 7 Yasmin Wagner’s seat.

According to the finance reports, Mathias spent about $1,550 on events and advertising in the past six months. Mathias — the most active candidate this period — received about $2,015 in contribution from residents in Austin, surrounding cities and Ohio. The largest contributor to Mathias’ campaign was John Robert Schmidt of Austin, who donated $123.

Among the other current trustees who turned in reports, none reported additional fundraising in the past six months. They simply carried over previous balances in their accounts. District 4 Trustee Julie Cowan maintained an estimated $2,750 in her account; at large Trustee Kendall Pace an estimated $2,670, with an additional $5,000 loan; District 6 Trustee Paul Saldaña an estimated $2,780; Teich an estimated $1,920; and Wagner an estimated $3,465. Along with Hinojosa, Elenz and District 1 Trustee Edmund Gordon did not turn in finance reports.

And, of course, there are the City Council elections that will take place in November. Council members Delia Garza (District 2), Greg Casar (District 4), Don Zimmerman (District 6), Leslie Pool (District 7) and Sheri Gallo (District 10) will all be up for re-election, although city code prohibits raising contributions until six months prior to the election.

Garza has maintained $899.36, Casar reports $3,345.46 in his coffers, Pool has maintained $215.50 and Gallo has retained $3,851.58.

Zimmerman reports $14,998.32, though he clarified that the expenses and contributions over the past year are for the Austinites for Zimmerman Legal Defense Fund. That fund is for Zimmerman’s suit against the city, which is currently being considered. Zimmerman is challenging the $350-per-person limit on donations for Council races as well as the six-month window for raising contributions and the $36,000 cap on contributions from people who live outside Austin. He is also challenging a city regulation that prevents winning Council members from keeping any contributions they do not spend in a campaign war chest.

Though the significant tallies for Council races remain in the future, it is certainly worth noting that two separate political action committees associated with transportation network companies also filed reports with the city clerk in January. Ridesharing Works for Austin reported $29,134.62 in political contributions, with the vast majority of that money coming from Uber and Lyft. And Transportation Network Companies 4 Austin reported zero dollars and zero expenditures.

In addition, Lyft Inc. reported that it had spent a total of $15,928.80 “related to city regulations for network transportation companies,” and Uber Technologies Inc. reported that it had spent $3,500 on the same thing.

The campaign of Texas House District 49 candidate Heather Way, one of eight Democrats running to take the seat of the retiring state Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin), had to take the unusual step of issuing a correction for its original press release about its fundraising this weekend. In her original filing with the Texas Ethics Commission, Way claimed that Pool had contributed to Way’s campaign. However, that was not the case. Claiming a “clerical error,” the Way campaign filed an amended report with the Ethics Commission and put out a press release to correct the mistake. Way reported raising nearly $53,000 and loaning her campaign $25,000.

Retiring AISD Board President Gina Hinojosa reported contributions of more than $26,000. She and her husband loaned the campaign $25,000.

The youngest candidate, former legislative staffer Huey Rey Fischer, reported raising nearly $18,600. Attorney Matt Shrum reported raising about $2,000, and no report was found on the Ethics Commission website for another attorney in the race, Kenton D. Johnson. Attorney Aspen Dunaway loaned his campaign $10,000 but reported only one contribution of $5.

Perhaps the biggest surprise among the reports was the one for Blake Rocap, yet another attorney, who reported loaning his campaign $100,000.

This story has contributions from Caleb Pritchard, Courtney Griffin, Elizabeth Pagano and Jo Clifton. It has been updated to include the fact that Gina Hinojosa was not required to file a report with AISD in January.

Photo by 401(K) 2012 made available through a Creative Commons license.

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