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Eckhardt leads in poll but trails in fundraising

Thursday, June 18, 2020 by Jo Clifton

According to a poll released by the Sarah Eckhardt campaign, the former Travis County judge has a wide lead in the race for Senate District 14 over both of her closest rivals, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former City Council Member Don Zimmerman.

The poll, which was conducted by Myers Research on June 2-4, found that among all voters Eckhardt has 42 percent of the vote, compared to 23 percent for Zimmerman and 22 percent for Rodriguez. Thirteen percent said they were undecided. Among voters who were certain that they would cast ballots in the election, 45 percent said they would vote for Eckhardt. In that group, Rodriguez and Zimmerman were tied at 23 percent each, with 10 percent undecided.

Nick Meier, Rodriguez’s campaign manager, said the campaign has better numbers but was not willing to share them. He also pointed out that the poll was taken before Rodriguez started running his TV ads. He likened the announcement from the Eckhardt campaign to “taking the score at halftime” and criticized the Eckhardt campaign for not putting the other candidates in the mix.

While Eckhardt appears to be ahead in the polls, Rodriguez is way ahead of everyone else on the ballot in the money race. According to his June 15 filing with the Texas Ethics Commission, Rodriguez raised $410,000 and spent $282,000, and still has $222,000 cash on hand. Eckhardt raised less than half of that: She reported raising $142,000 and spending $71,000, leaving $92,000 cash on hand.

As for the other candidates – Republican Waller Thomas Burns II, Libertarian Pat Dixon and independent Jeff Ridgeway – Burns and Ridgeway reported raising no money on the June 15 report to the Texas Ethics Commission. Dixon’s report showed he had raised $2,259 and spent all but $380 of it.

Zimmerman, a conservative Republican well-known for his entertaining ads, raised about $8,000. He told the Austin Monitor Wednesday that his latest ad, which shows him in a cowboy outfit sitting astride a longhorn, will be up on Fox 7 and CBS at the end of the week.

“I agree with the conventional wisdom that it’s Sarah Eckhardt’s election to lose,” he said; however, he noted that Rodriguez has a lot of business support, as evidenced by the list of those contributing to his campaign.

After the Quorum Report published a story tracking donors and dollars to each candidate, Eckhardt’s campaign sent out an email Wednesday asking supporters to contribute right away.

Looking at Rodriguez’s June 15 report, it is clear he has support from many people he has worked with as a state representative for the past 17 years. If he does not win the Senate race, he will be running for reelection in November because he won the Democratic primary in March.

Most contributors are giving to only one candidate, but the Austin law firm Armbrust & Brown is taking no chances, donating $5,000 each to Eckhardt and Rodriguez.

The AT&T Texas PAC also contributed $5,000 to Rodriguez, and Abbott Laboratories Employee PAC gave him $1,000, as did the law firm Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLP.

One of Rodriguez’s biggest contributions came from the HomePAC of Texas, which is affiliated with the Texas Association of Builders and donated $20,000. The Texas Optometric PAC gave him $27,000 and the Texas Society of Anesthesiologists PAC gave $2,500.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees in Washington, D.C., contributed $2,500 to Rodriguez and the American Wind Energy Association WINDPAC gave $2,000.

The Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. of Texas (ABC PAC) and the Associated General Contractors of Texas PAC each gave $2,500. The Association of Texas Professional Educators Political Action Committee gave him $2,000. The Beer Alliance of Texas Political Action Committee gave Rodriguez $500 and the CVS Health PAC gave $5,000.

The Texas State University System Political Action Committee gave $1,000. The Travis County Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Association PAC contributed $1,500. Financial adviser Joe Waxman contributed nearly $16,000. And according to his campaign finance report, the Texas Association of Realtors Political Action Committee (TREPAC) notified Rodriguez they might be making expenditures on his behalf.

Eckhardt was able to transfer $25,000 into her campaign coffers from her county judge campaign account. She has received few large contributions, but Sam Kumar, president of Journeyman Construction contributed $9,000 and the Bracewell PAC contributed $5,000, as did Roger Beasley Investments LLC.

Longtime Austin activist Shudde Fath contributed $1,000, as did former lobbyist Jack Gullahorn. HNTB Holdings PAC of Kansas City contributed $1,500.

Former Austin Mayor Frank Cooksey contributed $100 and former Council Member Randi Shade contributed $250, while attorney Martha Dickey donated $500. Attorneys Fitzgerald and Meisner contributed $250, as did attorney Henry Gilmore. Other contributors include Jim Marston with the Environmental Defense Fund, environmentalist Roy Waley, homebuilder Terry Mitchell, Mary Scott Nabers, and Eugene Sepulveda.

Early voting for the July 14 runoffs will begin June 29 under a proclamation issued by Gov. Greg Abbott.

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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