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Photo by Daniela Silva for District 3 and the Linda Guerrero campaign

Only Silva and Guerrero to get Fair Campaign money

Friday, November 18, 2022 by Jo Clifton

The city’s Law Department has decided that only two runoff candidates – Daniela Silva in District 3 and Linda Guerrero in District 9 – are eligible to receive money from the city’s Fair Campaign Finance Fund. That means each of them will receive half of the $66,126.54 in the fund, or $33,063.27. Guerrero and Silva were notified of the decision by City Clerk Myrna Rios on Thursday. Both signed the city’s Fair Campaign contract early in their campaigns, making them eligible for the funds.

Candidates José Velásquez in District 3 and Ryan Alter in District 5 had argued that they too were eligible for a share of the fund because they signed the pledge, but not within 30 days of becoming a candidate. Guerrero, through her attorney Bill Aleshire, argued strenuously against the idea that Velásquez and Alter were eligible for the money because they did not sign the contract until they applied for a place on the ballot. In both instances, that was many months after designating a campaign treasurer and collecting funds for the race.

After receiving a statement from the city about disbursement of the funds, the Austin Monitor asked Alter and Velásquez for comments. Alter argued he should have been eligible because of the way the funds were distributed in 2020. “I disagree with the conclusion they reached,” he said. “We have followed the exact same rules they applied in 2020,” but this year the city arrived at a different result. “I disagree with changing the rules mid-game.” He told the Monitor Monday that he had applied for a share of the fund; however, on Thursday he had not decided whether to mount a legal challenge to the city’s decision.

Attorney Aleshire said Thursday that he would also be representing Stephanie Bazan, who led all candidates in the District 5 election on Nov. 8, if necessary. Bazan did not sign the Fair Campaign contract but would have an interest in preventing Alter from getting additional money.

Aleshire told the Monitor via email: “My clients (Guerrero and Bazan) are glad to see the City Clerk will follow the law now despite previous misinterpretation. None of the other candidates have any excuse for expecting public funding, because they did not comply with the clear requirements of the City Code and the Election Code. If they wanted public funding, they should have signed the Fair Campaign contract within 30 days of becoming a candidate. They should have known that, among other ways, accepting a campaign contribution means they became a candidate, then and there, for purposes of the city’s Fair Campaign fund law and the state campaign finance laws.”

If Alter or Velásquez files suit, Guerrero and Bazan would support the city’s position that neither candidate was eligible for the funds. Silva has not made any statements on the issue.

Rios told Guerrero the funds would be available after Council canvasses the vote on Monday. Guerrero and Silva have to file as city vendors in order to receive the funds. Any legal action to prevent that distribution would have to take place quickly. Presumably, the plaintiff would have to ask a judge to intervene on very short notice.

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