July 16, 2003
More good news for the Houston economy

The rate at which the four major mayoral candidates are spending money, the city's econom should snap out of the doldrums any day now.

The four major candidates for Houston mayor already have raised more than $5.4 million, an indication they will obliterate spending records before the 2003 campaign ends.

The money more than doubles the record-setting $2.2 million Mayor Lee Brown and his two major opponents collected during the first six months of the 2001 race.

That year, a record $8 million was spent by the time Brown beat former Councilman Orlando Sanchez in a runoff.

This year, no incumbent is in the race because Brown is term-limited.

Bill White, a lawyer and CEO of the Wedge Group, raised $2.9 million -- more than the combined total of his three major opponents -- for his campaign to introduce himself to voters and convince them that he has the business acumen to manage city finances.

White personally contributed $631,000 to his campaign.

Sanchez raised $1.2 million, State Rep. Sylvester Turner $800,000, and Councilman Michael Berry $564,000.

Tuesday was the deadline for the candidates to file campaign finance reports with the city secretary for the period ending June 30.

Houston political consultant Craig Varoga predicted that spending could reach $20 million if, as expected, no one wins a majority Nov. 4 and the race heads for a runoff.

"These campaign finance reports make Spindletop look like a dry well," said Varoga, who managed campaigns for Houston's last two mayors but is not involved this year.

The race should be particularly spirited because the prolific fund-raising indicates that all four candidates will have enough money to transmit their messages to voters, Varoga said.

"It goes to prove that this is the No. 1 mayor's race in the country this year," Varoga said. "And being mayor is still worth something despite the headaches of trying to fix a budget and downtown streets."

That's a lot of money. Not surprisingly, a number of big donors are spreading the wealth, just in case their first choice doesn't get elected. I guarantee, by the end of September you won't be able to watch TV around here without getting pelted with ads.

White, who ran ads early on to boost his name recognition, has already spent a million bucks, followed by Berry ($370,000), Sanchez ($255,000) and Turner ($182,000). I must say, given that about 95% of the signs and bumper stickers I've seen have been for White and Berry, I wonder what Sanchez and Turner have used their money on so far.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 16, 2003 to Election 2003 | TrackBack

Good to see that White's doing well. Even though we don't have any Houston representation on our blog, we'll probably have a White endorsement over on Burnt Orange. Turner's just too cozy with Craddick and the GOP leadership. Of course, he'd be preferable to Sanchez or Berry, but I'd rather go with someone that doesn't make me feel uneasy.

Posted by: ByronUT on July 17, 2003 12:47 AM

Great post. Money equals speech (or something) so it's good to see the race heating up. Too bad I've never heard even one campaign add or stump speech from any candidate. Whatever speech they are putting out, it isn't reaching me through my choice of local media outlets.

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on July 17, 2003 7:31 AM

Damn...I think the entire mayoral campaign here in Seabrook was run for about what it might cost to roll your baseball team through the drive-through at Jack-in-the-Box....

Posted by: Jack Cluth on July 17, 2003 8:02 AM

Byron - I've softened up a bit on Turner since Garnet Coleman said he was supporting his mayoral bid. He's still my second choice, though.

Binkley - At least three of the major candidates (all but maybe Turner) have spoken at Downtown Houston Association luncheons, and all but Turner recently spoke at a Downtown and Midtown Residence Association meeting (Turner just announced his candidacy, which is why he's missed these events). Opportunities to hear them speak are there, you need to look for them.

Jack - In the end, I think this campaign will cost about what it would to run everyone in Houston through the drive-thru at Jack-in-the-Box.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 17, 2003 8:26 AM

Well, Sanchez has purchased at least three of those big' ol Berry-sized signs. There are 3 up on I-45 near the West Main exit and entrance ramps.

BTW, I think "Take Houston to Jack-In-The-Box" would be a winning campaign strategy.

Posted by: Rob Humenik on July 17, 2003 10:38 AM