Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by Jo Clifton

Mayor’s race outraises all others

Mayor Steve Adler and his chief opponent, former Council Member Laura Morrison, by far outraised the candidates in all the other races, as shown by the campaign finance reports filed on Monday.

Of course, the mayor’s race is traditionally the most expensive, and this year will be no exception. Adler, who started his re-election effort in January, reported raising close to $292,000 from more than 1,400 contributors since the first of the year, bringing to nearly $575,000 his total raised for this election.

According to a press statement from Laura Hernandez, Adler’s deputy campaign manager and finance director, “60 percent of our donors didn’t give to the campaign in 2014 and many of them are donating to a municipal campaign for the very first time.”

Morrison reported raising more than $92,000 “in donations from more than 600 individual contributions” and loaning her campaign another $28,000.

Morrison is already painting the race as David versus Goliath, and it would be difficult to argue that point given Adler’s fundraising advantage and his personal wealth. Still, Adler points out that he has not raised any money from a political action committee or received any bundled money, despite Morrison’s attempts to paint him as a tool of the real estate industry.

Morrison received contributions from such notable political figures as attorney Bill Aleshire, environmentalist Robin Rather, frequent Council critic Brian Rodgers, and anti-rail activist Jim Skaggs and his wife, Betty.

Two other people are running for mayor, but they have raised little money and are expected to have little impact. Travis Duncan reported spending $153.42, while raising nothing. Alexander Strenger reported raising $135 and spending about $1,215, mostly from personal funds.


District 1


In District 1, where incumbent City Council Member Ora Houston has elected not to run for re-election, the race is divided between candidates.

Vincent Harding has raised $25,414.94, with $11,273.95 of that remaining on hand, according to the report filed with the city. However, his campaign explained to the Monitor that the actual cash on hand is $24,207.19. (A quirk in state filing requirements accounts for the the apparent discrepancy.) He has contributions from restaurant proprietor Hoover Alexander; Austin Independent School District Trustee Cindy Anderson; Child Inc. Executive Director Albert Black; Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce CEO Tam Hawkins; Luci Baines Johnson; Saundra Kirk; former local candidates James Nortey, DeWayne Lofton and Richard Jung; developer Perry Lorenz; and sports broadcaster John Lopez.

Natasha Harper-Madison has raised $11,240.01 so far, with $9,859.86 remaining on hand. She has contributions from Planning commissioners Greg Anderson, Conor Kenny and Angela De Hoyos Hart; former City Council candidate Jeb Boyt; Board of Adjustment member Eric Goff, Dan Graham, fellow candidate Danielle Skidmore; and perennial boards and commissions member Dave Sullivan.

Mariana Salazar raised $7,035.22. Though there aren’t many insider names on her donors list, some of those who have contributed reflect her work with the homeless in Austin.

Lewis Conway Jr. has raised $5,192.92 so far, and maintained $1,517.54 of that to date. Though his donors list is also short on familiar names, that sum is largely made up of a number of donations under $50.


District 3


Incumbent Pio Renteria leads the District 3 pack in fundraising, barely. He’s raised $26,645 so far. His report states that the campaign has no money left on hand. His campaign told the Austin Monitor the error would be corrected today. After $6,162.20 in expenditures and a previous balance of $2,020.55, the campaign has $22,503.35 in cash.

He has contributions from Planning Commissioner Greg Anderson and development heavy hitters from Endeavor Real Estate Group, Drenner Group, Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, Thrower Design and Armbrust & Brown, BoA member Eric Goff, Texas Disposal Systems’ Bob Gregory, and Latino HealthCare Forum’s Jill Ramirez. Renteria also contributed $75 to the Beto for Texas Campaign.

District 3 candidate James Valadez has raised $26,350 and maintained $26,272.35 of that figure. Board of Adjustment Chair William Burkhardt, former Austin Neighborhoods Council President Mary Ingle, and BoA members Bryan King and Michael Von Ohlen all donated as did former City Council candidate Ed Wendler.

Jessica Cohen, meanwhile, has a war chest of just $40 at the time of filing.


District 5


The only Council member running for re-election who has failed to draw an opponent so far is District 5’s Ann Kitchen. She has raised nearly $32,000 but has spent none of it. Kitchen still owes herself almost $50,000 from her previous campaign.


District 8


Since Council Member Ellen Troxclair announced her decision last week not to run for re-election for the District 8 seat, residents of that district currently have three progressive candidates to choose from: Rich DePalma, Bobby Levinski and Paige Ellis.

Levinski and DePalma are neck and neck in fundraising, with DePalma reporting having raised about $28,000, including $3,000 he loaned his campaign. He has more than $27,000 remaining in his campaign coffers.

Levinski reported raising just over $26,000 and loaned his campaign $3,750. He reported having $28,000 in the bank on the report filed Monday.

On the report filed Monday, Ellis said she had $12,401 cash on hand. Like Levinski and DePalma, she loaned her campaign more than $3,000, but she had raised just $6,200 in contributions. According to her press release, all of Ellis’ money was “raised from 174 grassroots donations at an average of $58 each and no PAC money.” No political action committee money is shown on reports from DePalma or Levinski either.


District 9


However, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, running for re-election in District 9, has received $350 contributions from the AFSCME VOTE PAC, as well as the Southwest Laborers District Council PAC and the Volunteers Organized to Promote Equity PAC.

Tovo reported raising less than $42,000 and spending about $26,000 on her campaign so far, leaving her contributions maintained at less than $20,000. Tovo also received contributions from Precinct 2 Commissioner Brigid Shea and her husband, John Umphress, as well as Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Travillion’s campaign. She also received contributions from Bill Bunch and Pat Brodnax of the Save Our Springs Alliance, as well as other environmentalists. Lobbyist and attorney David Armbrust and his wife also contributed $25 each – the maximum they’re allowed to give.

Tovo’s major opponent in the race is Danielle Skidmore, who reported raising more than $47,000 on Monday’s report, with nearly $40,000 left in the bank. Skidmore appears to be a favorite of numerous software and tech workers, according to her contributions. She also received contributions from Planning commissioners Greg Anderson and Angela De Hoyos Hart, architect Sinclair Black, attorney and former state Sen. Kent Caperton and George Cofer of the Hill Country Alliance.

Because she is running for a third term, Tovo is required to collect enough signatures to make sure that she gets a place on the November ballot. That is no doubt the reason that she has spent most of the money she has raised.

Elizabeth Pagano contributed to this report. This story has been updated to include information about Harding’s cash on hand.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

November 2018 elections

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