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Election Politics

Margo, Leeser raise almost 80% of donations in mayor’s race

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Financial backers of the six candidates vying for mayor have pumped close to $1 million into their campaigns since Tuesday’s race started in spring 2019.

Incumbent Dee Margo, former Mayor Oscar Leeser and political newcomers Verónica Carbajal, Carlos Gallinar and Calvin Zielsdorf raised a combined $934,817.79, according to their campaign finance reports. Dean Martinez has not filed any reports.

The money has not been evenly distributed among the candidates.

Margo raised nearly $453,000, or 48% of the race’s total campaign contributions. Leeser’s approximately $285,500 in contributions comprise 31% of the total.

Though Carbajal and Gallinar raised significantly less, they had broader bases of financial support, according to an analysis of campaign finance reports submitted since July 2019.

Carbajal raised approximately $80,900 from 646 individual contributors. Gallinar had the next highest single contributors, at 486, who gave his campaign nearly $115,000.

Margo and Leeser had fewer individual donors, with 362 donors for the incumbent mayor and 376 backing the former mayor. Despite fewer donors, they were able to significantly outraise their challengers through large donations.

Zielsdorf raised less than $700 from four contributors.

Thirty-six percent of Margo’s donors gave $1,000 or more. Twenty-seven percent of Leeser’s donations were for $1,000 or more.

Gallinar received 26 donations of $1,000 or more, and Carbajal 13.

Carbajal’s biggest financial backer was state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso. He gave $7,500 from his campaign account, and together, he and his wife, Carmen, gave $4,276. Ed and Joseph Soto of Soto Enterprises gave a combined $5,000.

The mode of her donations — or most frequent individual contribution amount — was $10.

Among Gallinar’s top financial supporters were U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, who gave $5,000 from her campaign account; former state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, who gave $2,500; and Miguel and Rodrigo Fernandez of Transtelco, who gave $5,000 and $2,500 respectively.

Gallinar’s most frequent contribution amount was $100.

Margo and Leeser’s mode individual campaign contribution was $500.

Margo’s mother-in-law Betty Wakefield and businessman Woody Hunt each gave him $12,500, the largest donation of the mayoral race. He received $10,000 each from businessman J. Kirk Robison, who owns Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar and Peter Piper Pizza franchises in El Paso; WestStar Bank Director Rick Francis; and Dede Rogers, who owned DSTP Motorsports.

Five automotive dealers were among Leeser’s top donors. These include Miami Lakes-based Potamkin Automotive Group Co-Chairmen Alan and Robert Potamkin, who each gave $10,000; Spring, Texas-based North Freeway Hyundai President Paul Peebles, who gave $5,500; Potamkin Automotive Group President and Chief Operating Officer Barry Frieder, who gave $5,000; and Pensacola, Florida-based Allen Turner Hyundai owner Allen Turner, who also gave $5,000.

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Molly Smith

Molly Smith has been a reporter for the El Paso Times and The (McAllen) Monitor. She’s covered education, criminal justice and local government. A Seattle native, she’s lived in Texas since 2014, with stops in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley and now El Paso. She can be reached at mksmith@elpasomatters.org or 915-247-8857.

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