Fundraising Battle in Precinct 4

City Hall influence showing up in county commissioner's race

By Amy Smith, Fri., Jan. 29, 2010

A house divided? This home brandishes 
two campaign yard signs for two candidates – Margaret Gómez and Raul Alvarez – competing for the same seat.
A house divided? This home brandishes two campaign yard signs for two candidates – Margaret Gómez and Raul Alvarez – competing for the same seat.
Photo by Lee Nichols

It's rare when a political challenger raises more money than a veteran incumbent, but Raul Alvarez, who is challenging incumbent Precinct 4 County Commissioner Margaret Gómez, managed to do just that in the final months of 2009, the most recent campaign filings show.

Alvarez raised $30,417 (including a $3,000 loan to himself) between the time he filed for office in October through the end of December. By comparison, Gómez raised $21,508 between July and December.

The hitch is that Gómez started the campaign season sitting on a comfortable cushion of more than $43,000 and, after an assortment of expenditures, reported having $42,103 left in her war chest, which is likely to swell in the weeks leading up to the March 2 primary. Alvarez ended the reporting period with just less than $11,000 cash on hand, so he still has his fundraising work cut out for him. Once the candidates had filed their campaign reports this month, Gómez's campaign was the first to issue a press release, stating the incumbent had "nearly a 4 to 1 cash on hand advantage over her opponent." Alvarez fired back with a statement that he had "out-raised his opponent by nearly $10,000."

The finance reports show Gómez receiving larger contributions from fewer donors when compared to Alvarez. Gómez picked up several $1,000 and $1,500 contributions from big lobby law firms such as Clark, Thomas & Winters; Brown McCarroll; and Vinson & Elkins. She also pulled in smaller donations, generally in the $50 to $150 range, from loyal county employees; local progressives such as parks advocate Ted Siff and political consultant Kelly Fero, who died earlier this month; and from current members of the Commissioners Court and former and current elected officials, among them state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, District Judge Charlie Baird, former County Attorney Ken Oden, and former County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner.

Alvarez's campaign claimed more than 200 individual donors – 80% of them contributing $100 or less – ranging from grassroots activists (Robin Schneider, Karen Hadden, Tom "Smitty" Smith, Susana Almanza) to City Hall observers and players such as former council candidate and Planning Commis­sion­er Perla Cavazos and city employee and former Zoning and Platting Commissioner Clarke Hammond. Alvarez's largest contributions ($1,000 each) came from Channy Soeur and Raza Khataw, engineering consulting firm owners. On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, Council Member Randi Shade, and former Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley hosted a fundraiser for Alvarez.

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