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Early voting ends today in District 4 race

Friday, January 21, 2022 by Jo Clifton

As of Wednesday night, 1,199 voters had cast ballots in the City Council District 4 race – that’s less than 3.5 percent of those registered in the district. Voters who do not make it to the polls before 7 p.m. tonight (here are the early voting locations) can vote on election day, Tuesday, Jan. 25. So far, five of the seven candidates to replace outgoing Council Member Greg Casar have filed campaign finance reports that were due Tuesday. Those reports cover the period from Dec. 17 to Jan. 15.

Candidate Jade Lovera reported total contributions of $8,250. That amount included $135 in cash donations received on Dec. 18 and $500 in cash received on Dec. 23. It is not unusual to see small amounts of cash listed on campaign finance reports. In fact, there’s a specific line on page 2 of the report that asks for “total political contributions of $50 or less (other than pledges, loans or guarantees of loans), unless itemized.” Lovera reported $30 in that category, not the $635 one might have expected. Lovera told the Austin Monitor that on both occasions people contributed cash in a jar that was passed through the crowd. Yet, it is not clear whether this reporting passes muster for two reasons. Political consultant Alfred Stanley, who is not working for any candidate in this race, referred to the Texas Ethics Commission rules, which states, “A candidate, officeholder, or specific-purpose committee may not knowingly accept from a contributor in a reporting period political contributions in cash that in the aggregate exceed $100. Violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.”

It may be true that these contributions came from multiple people, but Stanley agreed that collecting $500 in cash in allowable amounts was a little bit more difficult to believe. City regulations also prohibit any individual from donating more than about $400 per campaign. Also assisting Lovera is a political action committee that has sent out a mail piece attacking José “Chito” Vela. The group, Voices for District 4, spent $35,000 to oppose Vela and support Lovera. It received its funding from two other political action committees, the City Accountability Project and the Restore Leadership ATX PAC.

The other candidates to file their financial reports on time were Monica Guzmán, Amanda Rios, Melinda Schiera, and Vela. Guzmán reported contributions of $8,666 and said she was maintaining about $14,000. Guzmán also had good news from the environmental group Clean Water Action, which recently endorsed her candidacy. Rios reported collecting $4,850 in contributions and had about $3,300 in the bank. Schiera reported that she had raised a little more than $600, but had no money in her campaign account as of Jan. 15. Vela, who has garnered the most endorsements and contributions, reported raising a little less than $37,000 and still had about $29,000 in the bank. Candidates Ramesses II Setepenre and Isa Boonto had not filed reports as of Thursday afternoon.

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