Race to the Board: Fundraising

Some 80% of Mary Ellen Pietruszynski's contributions came from three donors in the tech community

Mary Ellen Pietruszynski
Mary Ellen Pietruszynski (Photo by Jana Birchum)

In the race to replace Annette LoVoi on the AISD board of trustees, when it comes to fundraising, Sooch Foundation Executive Director Mary Ellen Pietruszynski is outdistancing civil rights attorney Gina Hinojosa. But over 80% of Pietruszynski's contributions came from just three individual donors in the tech community.

AISD released the latest campaign finance filings by trustee candidates on Oct. 11, covering the three months from July 1 to Sept. 27. In the hotly contested at-large place 8 race, Pietruszynski raised $50,753 to Hinojosa's $36,813. The largest single slab of cash in Pietruszynski's war chest comes from her boss at the Sooch Foundation, Nav Sooch ($6,500), and his business partner David Welland ($25,000); the co-founders of Silicon Labs have provided over 62% of her total fundraising. The third big IT donor is Neil Webber, co-founder of dot-com success story Vignette, who gave $9,550.

To put those figures into context, the maximum contribution in a city of Austin election is $350. In a federal election, it's only $2,500. However, as in statewide and legislative elected offices in Texas, there is no limit on campaign contributions in an AISD election. Normally, there's been no need to talk about limits because the campaigns are so low-profile that cash has rarely been a factor.

However, the second-biggest player this year – after Welland – is the Education Aus­tin PAC, which is linked to the teachers union, and divided $25,000 between the four candidates it endorsed: $10,000 for Hino­josa, $5,000 each for Jayme Mathias, Charlie Jackson, and Ann Teich.

Teich may not need that money after all: The District 3 candidate is now effectively unopposed after incumbent Christine Bris­ter announced on Oct. 10 that she is suspending her campaign for medical reasons. Brister remains on the ballot as she missed the deadline to withdraw, but it seems unlikely she'll serve even if she wins. With a $16,915 three-month haul, Mathias leads incumbent Sam Guzmán, who only pulled in $4,405. However, Jackson trails in District 5 behind former AISD Council of PTA's president Amber Elenz: She raised $13,570 – including $1,000 from Lance Armstrong – while Jackson's late-starting campaign collected only $6,166, mostly from that one-off Education Austin donation.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin Independent School District
AISD Weighs Schedule Change to Fix Budget Woes
AISD Weighs Schedule Change to Fix Budget Woes
Proposal would cut planning time for teachers in half

Morgan O’Hanlon, Jan. 28, 2022

AISD Tells Parents, Teachers: Keep Calm and Omicr-On
AISD Tells Parents, Teachers: Keep Calm and Omicr-On
Amidst classroom outbreaks, in-person learning continues

Morgan O’Hanlon, Jan. 14, 2022

More election
Travis County Primary Candidates Jockey to Champion Criminal Justice Change
Travis County Primary Candidates Jockey to Champion Criminal Justice Change
A closer look at the heated District Attorney, County Attorney, and County Court at Law races

Michael King, Feb. 7, 2020

Election Ticker: From Warren to WilCo
Election Ticker: From Warren to WilCo
Elizabeth Warren weighs in on the D.A. race

Michael King, Jan. 31, 2020

More by Richard Whittaker
Spoiler Alert
Jim Parsons gets his Love Story moment in this wonderful tearjerker

Dec. 9, 2022

Elegance Bratton Talks About Passing <i>The Inspection</i>
Elegance Bratton Talks About Passing The Inspection
Director of the new Marine drama from A24 on learning empathy

Dec. 2, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Independent School District, AISD, AISD board, election, Annette LoVoi, Gina Hinojosa, Mary Ellen Pietruszynski, campaign finance, Sooch Foundation, Education Austin, Jayme Mathias, Charlie Jackson, Ann Teich, Christine Brister, Amber Elenz, Sam Guzman, Sam Guzmán

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle