In the money race for a seat on the El Paso City Council, District 1 candidate Brian Kennedy has far outraised his challengers – and all candidates vying for the four city representative seats up for grabs in the Nov. 8 election – in the last reporting period.
Kennedy reported raising about $26,000 in political contributions in the crowded race to represent the West Side and Upper Valley area of the city, according to campaign reports for the period from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31. Additionally, he’s loaned his campaign $51,000 since August, including $15,000 in October.
His contributions ranged from $50 to $2,500, with the largest donation of $2,500 from developer Douglas Schwartz. He also received $2,000 from the Texas Realtors Political Action Committee and several $1,000 contributions from other local developers, including Robert Foster, Richard Aguilar and Ralph Sellers. He also received $1,500 from developer Oscar Venegas.
Analisa Cordova Silverstein drew the second-largest amount of funding among District 1 candidates. She received about $10,000 in contributions, which includes a $3,500 in-kind donation from Carlos Corral, the owner of local film company MindWarp LLC for a campaign video.
Silverstein’s contributions ranged from $25 to $5,000 with her largest monetary contribution of $5,000 coming from local developer and philanthropist Woody Hunt. She also received $1,000 from Johnny Escalante, a local entertainment company owner.
Campaign contributions were less than $500 for the remaining District 1 candidates Lauren Ferris, Deliris Montañez Berrios and Erin Tague. Freddy Klayel Avalos dropped out of his campaign and did not file a report. His name will still appear on the ballot.
Here’s how the rest of the candidates in the City Council races fared during the final campaign finance reporting period:
Incumbent city Rep. Isabel Salcido reported raising about $10,000 as she seeks to hold on to her position in District 5. Four of the six donations that made up that total were contributed by local developers and business owners.
Those include a $2,500 contribution from developer Richard Aguilar; $2,500 from Mini-Concrete owners Jose Bernardo and Maria Guadalupe Soto; and $2,500 from developer and philanthropist Stanlee and Gerald Rubin. She also received $2,000 from the Texas Realtors Political Action Committee.
Salcido’s report shows more than 60% of her expenditures, or about $46,000, was spent on two consultants during the reporting period. She paid Renegade Public Relations, owned by political consultant Carlos Sierra, about $25,000 and VMP Strategies LLC, owned by former County Commissioner Vince Perez, about $21,000.
Her opponent, Richard Genera, reported about $7,000 in contributions. His largest contribution of $6,000 was from retired Houston oilman J.P. Bryan, known for helping fund the legal battle against the city’s planned Downtown arena slated to be built in the Duranguito neighborhood.
The third candidate, Felix J. Muñoz did not file his campaign finance report before the deadline. Muñoz said he did not raise any funds, but had a family emergency that prevented him from filing the report on time. He said he still plans to file.
It’s a violation of Texas campaign law not to report donations of more than $90 unless the candidate doesn’t plan to raise or spend more than $940 and files a declaration of intent not to accept more than $940 in contributions ahead of the campaign.
Incumbent District 6 city Rep. Claudia Lizette Rodriguez’s campaign finance report contains conflicting information. One section of the report states she collected about $47,000 in contributions, but only itemized about $7,000. Separately, she also lists a $4,000 in-kind contribution from the El Paso Association of Firefighters for a campaign mailer.
Rodriguez did not make herself available for a phone interview. In a text message, she said a technical error led to the discrepancy as her report “populated my year-to-date contributions and I’m working with IT to resolve that issue.”
She also said via the text that there was another discrepancy in her report: “There is a $4,000 in-kind donation in there so that total is higher, but it will be corrected as soon as IT gives me green light.” She didn’t provide the correct total.
This is not the first time Rodriguez has had discrepancies on her reports. Her previous filing lacked key details that may have been a violation of Texas campaign finance law. She filed an amended report days after El Paso Matters published a story on the matter.
One of her opponents, veteran politician and Texas House Rep. Art Fierro, raised about $15,000 during the reporting period. Those contributions came from fewer than 10 donations – two of which came from Fierro’s state representative campaign account.
His largest donation of $6,000 came from Bryan, the Houston businessman. Fierro made two $2,000 contributions from this state campaign account. He also received $2,000 from the Texas Realtors Political Action Committee and $750 from the Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association Political Action Committee.
Cristian Botello reported raising about $1,400. His largest contribution of $1,000 came from communications firm Transtelco CEO Miguel Fernandez.
Benjamin Jimmy Leyva said he filed the report Oct. 26, but it has not shown up on the city’s web page. He said he did not receive any campaign contributions.
District 8 candidate Bettina Olivares, who works for District 3 city Rep. Cassandra Hernandez, brought in about $10,700 during the final reporting period. The majority of her large donations came from local developers. She had 22 donors contribute quantities ranging from $20 to $2,500.
Key donors include $2,500 from local developer Stanley Jobe; $2,500 from Woody Hunt; $1,000 from Deborah Kastrin, vice president of Kasco Ventures Inc., a local real-estate development firm; and $1,250 from former city Rep. Steve Ortega.
Rich Wright reported raising about $7,000 for his campaign. His key donors include a $6,000 contribution from Bryan and a $200 contribution from El Paso County Commissioner David Stout.
Chris Canales, chief of staff to Rep. Cissy Lizarraga – who currently represents the district – reported raising about $3,000. His eight donations ranged from $25 to $1,000 with the largest contribution coming from Woody and Gayle Hunt.
Cruz Morales Jr., a write-in candidate, said his reports have been filed, but they have not appeared on the city’s web page.