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Chron looks at Mayoral fundraising

They focus on small-dollar donors.


A Houston Chronicle analysis of the top seven candidates’ campaign finance filings covering the first six months of the year shows most businesses and special interest groups are waiting for the race to shape up before pushing their chips forward, and shows the top campaigns have each drawn roughly half their cash from wealthy donors giving the individual maximum of $5,000.

The most instructive data, political analysts say, comes from grassroots donors giving $50 or less.

For one thing, University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray says, there are far more people able to give $50 than $5,000 – and those folks often will cut additional checks to fund the final push to November.

“They’re the people you expect to do the door-knocking and stuff the envelopes and hustle up some additional votes,” Murray said. “That’s awfully important because turnout has dropped in city elections. Every vote becomes more valuable. And research shows one of the most effective ways to get people to vote is to tell your friends, ‘I’m going to vote and you should to.’‚ÄČ”

Presumed front-runners Adrian Garcia and Sylvester Turner drew the largest share of their contributions from small donors, followed by City Councilman Steve Costello.

Garcia, the former Harris County sheriff, boasted 315 small donors, a quarter of all contributors to his campaign. Turner, a longtime state representative from north Houston, reported 141 small donors, also comprising about a fourth of his donors.

Costello drew a fifth of his donors from the grassroots. This surprised some analysts, who knew only that the moderate-to-conservative engineer was sure to draw business backing. Others said the haul was notable but needed context, given that Garcia entered the race months after Costello, and Turner had just nine days to solicit checks following the end of the legislative session and associated fundraising blackout rules.

Though his overall fundraising total was modest, former Congressman Chris Bell also drew a solid group of small donors, with these supporters making up 17 percent of his contributors.

Bill King only had 6 percent of his donors come from this small-dollar group, but Mark Jones assures us that doesn’t really mean anything, so don’t go wallowing in existential despair just yet. There’s also a chart that also tallies up contributions from PACs and max donors, or you could have read what I wrote a couple of weeks ago, with more information and fewer expert quotes. Snark aside, looking at the small-dollar donors is a worthwhile exercise that I didn’t have the bandwidth to do. More transparency is good.

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  1. Jason Hochman says:

    I for the life of me can’t understand why people are donating to Garcia. One of his final acts as sheriff, firing the underpaid, poorly trained and overworked jailers who were held responsible for the abuse and neglect of an inmate, shows a lack of leadership. Why doesn’t the man at the top take some responsibility? As a former jailer (not in Harris County), I know what it is like, trying to complete everything required on your shift in an over crowded facility with inmates camped out on the floor, and then finding out that the next shift needs you to stay over because they don’t have enough staff. Harris County’s jail is obviously over crowded; they recently have shipped a number of inmates to Beaumont. Why isn’t anyone taking Garcia to task for allowing this to happen? But then again, there are a lot of hard Democrats in Harris County who just want to see their party elected.

  2. Steven Houston says:

    Jason, whatever you think of Garcia, he did not fire the jailers, he fired 6 supervisors. The jailers got suspensions ranging from 1 to 10 days, depending on their violations. He also ended the career of his second in command, Fred Brown, tell me when in the history of the largely republican led HCSO that someone with an “R” next to his name disciplined so many people for an incident. Further, he has long tried to get more employees but those controlling the purse strings, the republican led Commissioner’s Court, has declined to fully fund the number asked for while spending considerable amounts on parks and such.

    And “hard democrats” have ample democratic choices that they need not donate to Garcia if they find something about him offensive, many picking Turner, others picking Bell, etc. But Garcia has been taken to task by a number of folks, often the same that gave worse scandals by Thomas and Klevenhagen a complete pass because of their affiliation. Now we have an appointed “R” sheriff who professes that he doesn’t want to run the jail, the largest aspect of the position, so Garcia is in good company with those on the other side of the political realm.