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Watson had help from bundlers, but not that much

Wednesday, July 20, 2022 by Jo Clifton

In his campaign to become Austin’s next mayor, Kirk Watson has already gained the title of the city’s most prodigious fundraiser for a political race. He raised more than $997,000 in time for the July 15 report. Although he had some help from a dozen “bundlers,” people who collect funds on behalf of a candidate, it would be a mistake to overestimate their value.

According to a report provided to the Austin Monitor by the campaign, the bundlers raised $36,400 starting in March and ending on June 28. All told, their efforts represent less than 4 percent of Watson’s reported income. Most of those individuals are real estate professionals.

The most successful of these bundlers, according to the list provided to the Austin Monitor by the campaign, was Kristen Harmon, who brought in $7,200. She is listed as the executive director at American Council of Engineering Companies Central Texas on LinkedIn. Scott Flack brought in $4,500, according to the campaign. He is president and partner at Live Oak Properties.

Other bundlers include developer Daryl Kunik, who plans a major east side development, and attorney Casey Dobson, a longtime friend of Watson’s. Dobson raised $4,500 and Kunik brought in $3,200.

Rashed Islam of HDR Engineering collected $2,800 on Watson’s behalf. Brad Winans brought in $1,800 and Victoria Li raised $1,900. Winans is southwest district manager and vice president of the construction firm Hensel Phelps. Li’s name is a familiar one to City Hall watchers, since she was director of the Watershed Protection Department for 10 years.  Since retirement, she has been a strong advocate for the Asian and Pacific Islander community.

Also raising money for the campaign were Bill Ball, a partner at Kemp Properties, James Roohms, Kelsey Erickson and Evan Williams. Erickson is a vice president for government affairs and advocacy at the Texas Restaurant Association. She raised $2,000. Roohms is president of CP&Y, a large engineering, planning and construction management firm. He brought in $1,300. Williams and Ball both raised $2,400. Williams is a commercial real estate agent and supervisor.

The campaign noted on their July 15 report that they were unable to integrate the information on bundling into their report because of problems with the city’s software. They said, “We have attempted to include bundling information in this uploaded report in accordance with city requirements. However, there is a glitch in the software causing errors in the data that prevents reporting it correctly. The clerk’s office has confirmed the software issue and informed us that they are currently working on it with their developers ….” A city spokesperson told the Monitor on Tuesday via email, “There are no problems or issues with the City’s software regarding filing. The user encountered challenges editing data in a way the system did not allow but was able to file by the deadline. After learning about this, our vender provided an enhancement to the software application to make this possible for users starting today.”

District 8 Council Member Paige Ellis, who also had help raising some funds from a bundler, reported $44,000 raised through June 30. She also had $56,000 cash on hand from fundraising last December. Ellis reported that developer Daryl Kunik, who also helped Watson, raised $3,000 for her campaign. Ellis is facing conservative Richard Smith and the newly announced candidate Kimberly Hawkins, who has promised not to raise or spend more than $940 on her campaign.

District 1 incumbent Natasha Harper-Madison also received fundraising help from two bundlers. Kunik, who raised $4800 for her campaign, and engineer Laura Soeur, who raised $4000

José Velásquez, who is running in District 3, also raised $4800 with the help of Kunik.

And Linda Guerrero, who is running in District 9, raised $14,510 with the help of Mary Ingle, who is the former head of the Austin Neighborhoods Council. Browsing the contributions that make up the bundled total reveals a list that includes the likes of Fred Lewis, Daniel Llanes, Bryan King, Betsy Greenberg – all of whom are familiar faces at City Hall and frequent campaign donors in City Council races. 

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. This story has been updated to include candidates in Districts 1, 3, and 9. 

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