Where District 7 Candidates Are Getting Their Money

Second quarter campaign financing results confirm huge spending advantages for District 7 council candidates Jeb Boyt ($20,339) and Jimmy Paver ($18,582), followed by Melissa Zone ($6,634) and other candidates. Details of the funding results, including contributions by geography, were covered last week:

http://www.austindistrict7.org/boyt-paver-claim-fund-raising-lead-in-d7-race/

In this article we look in more detail at the contributors.

Jeb Boyt claimed $8,525 (42%) from Downtown and west Austin (78701-78705, 78726, 78730-36, 78746, 78750 and 78759). Some of Boyt’s funding came from attorneys and real estate people, plus people associated with Downtown – Charlie Betts of the Downtown Austin Alliance, Cid Gallindo of the Austin Congress of the New Urbanism chapter, Austin Contrarian’s Chris Bradford, and local real estate leaders like Frank Harren and Perry Lorenz. Boyt’s base also includes parks, trails and bicycle advocates, for example Bicycle Sports Shop’s Bill Abell, or former Planning Commission chair Dave Sullivan.

Boyt’s contributor base is easy to label and hardly unexpected – they are urbanists. They reflect Boyt’s many years at the center of Austin’s government circles, urbanist and conservation advocacy groups, and people he encountered in his work for several state land agencies.

Hope Doty from Milwood is one contributor who fits this profile. Doty grew up with Boyt’s wife and met Boyt 15 years ago. Doty and her husband both follow Austin’s transportation and open space issues. “Jeb is my go-to guy,” Doty said. “He’s so connected to all the issues that I care about in town.” Doty said Boyt’s many years in City of Austin political circles means he knows the system and can effectively take care of District 7.

Andrew Donoho and Jackie O’Keefe live six houses down from Boyt. “We have sympatico values,” Donoho said, noting that growth is already happening and that Boyt is a “prudent, level-headed guy” who can make sure it’s implemented in a way that benefits neighborhoods. VMU-style development along commercial streets in itself doesn’t phase them, but to be successful, Donoho says such development needs someone like Boyt to advocate for good transit, parks and bikes. “He’s a long-term thinker,” adds O’Keefe, with “a sharp and diagnostic mind.”

Jimmy Paver looked to Downtown and West Austin for a good chunk of his funding – $8,010 (43%) – a similar amount to Boyt. People with ties to the real estate industry are represented. So are a few political consultants. But Paver’s funding is far more diverse. More of Paver’s money, 32%, came from outside Austin, apparently from family or political networks. Within Austin, the extended Paver family (it seems like Pavers make up about half of Austin’s population) contributed heavily. One Paver contributor – Leslie Pool – has since entered the election herself.

Said Paver, “it is a very mixed crowd that can’t be easily categorized as representative of a collective interest group. Some are from Lloyd Doggett days, some from the Capitol, some from campaigns.” Many contributors were people that Paver grew up with. In this vein, Paver’s hefty self-loan of $40,000 can be seen in a positive light, further insulating him from outside interests.

In the earlier article on campaign contributions, candidates were compared based on the number of non-family contributors within the district. This indicated an on-the-ground advantage to candidate Melissa Zone. Paver said the metric may mask support from voters who support him but who he did not approach for donations. “I’m fortunate to have solid funding – so I didn’t seek a lot of donations from people in the neighborhood,” Paver said. He said a lot of people have Paver yard signs – a different indicator of early support. One such supporter is Hannah Peters, an Allandale resident who didn’t donate but has a yard sign out. She says she has known Paver for ten years and trusts him.

Melissa Zone, a resident of Austin for just four years, entered the race with no citywide networks, but still came in third for fund-raising. Several contributors are Austin Neighborhoods Council and neighborhood association activists. Within the district, Zone takes a lead in number of contributors, from both ends of the district. Presumably, these are mostly people who met her recently.

Donna Beth McCormick, a local Democratic and neighborhood activist, met Zone after her campaign announcement. McCormick said she sees in Zone a strong leader who will stand up for neighborhoods and quality of life. “She is the most knowledgeable about how to get this done. She is a planner by profession, and will know when city staff is trying to put something over on us,” McCormick said.

Ed English, whose main citywide network is through the 10-1 group Austinites for Geographic Representation, raised $3,245, including $825 within District 7 and $1,610 from other areas of Austin. English’s supporters include neighbors like Marty Schoen (Milwood), who is not political but enjoys talking to English about issues. “He’s just a really good man,” Shoen said. She said all the nearby streets are full of English yard signs. “This is just a close-knit community.” At the other end of the district, Dave Orshalick expressed admiration for English’s commitment to 10-1 political reform. Orshalick said he was won over by English’s detailed knowledge of North Austin issues. But more importantly, “he feels our pain.”

One source seemingly absent on English’s finance report – conservative money. English, who has voted on occasion in Republican primaries and who prioritizes modest tax and rate cuts to bring down the cost of living, has forcefully described himself as a non-aligned pragmatist. Apparently, Republican donors believe him.

Leslie Pool only entered the campaign in July, and so was not fund-raising in the second quarter. However, with backing from political heavyweights like Laura Morrison and Brigid Shea, Pool should be considered a fiscally viable candidate. Chad Williams, Pool’s treasurer, said contributions are indeed pouring in. With Pool and Zone both competing for liberal neighborhood people, it will be interesting to see how Pool’s entry affects Zone’s momentum, and vice versa.

Pete Salazar raised $2,405 in the second quarter, mostly from friends and family in East Austin. One noteable contributor – The Texas Democratic Party. Salazar also took out loans worth $4,805.

Lourdes Jones has been friends with Salazar since he was four years old. “Personally, I’ve lived in Austin for 40 years, I’m feeling squeezed out and Pete is the only candidate who can empathize.”

Josiah Ingalls listed a large number of pledges, but had little hard cash from contributors in the second quarter. Ingalls did pony up $8,000 in loans. He said the self-financing should signal to people his serious intentions for the race.