A Super PAC calling itself “For Our Community” has spent more than $33,000 on digital advertising and mailers in an attempt to unseat District 14 Councilman Philip Kingston, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. That’s more than any candidate in the race has spent trying to promote himself — including Kingston.
District 14 includes the M Streets, Lower Greenville and Old East Dallas. Challenger Matt Wood, who lives in Junius Heights, has raised nearly $46,000 and spent roughly $6,000 so far. Kingston, who lives in the Belmont Addition Historic District, has raised more than $50,000 since January and spent a little less than $20,000. Challenger and Downtown resident Kim Welch has not raised any money.
Combined with Kingston’s previous donations, the almost $95,000 in his campaign coffers going into the May 6 election is more than double Wood’s $40,000. And that’s money Kingston may need, considering that the For Our Community Super PAC has out-fundraised and outspent both of them.
Since January, For Our Community solicited another $86,000, bringing its grand total to $271,000. (Super PACs, unlike candidates, don’t have limits on donations they can accept from individuals or corporations.) For Our Community’s latest campaign finance report makes explicit its support of five City Council incumbents and one candidate — Monica Alonzo, Rick Callahan, Casey Thomas, Erik Wilson, Tiffinni Young and Matt Wood.
Kingston is the only candidate For Our Community is spending to oppose, and he seems to be a big focus of the donors’ efforts. Of the roughly $95,000 it has spent so far, more than a third of the money has been directed toward anti-Kingston efforts.
Kingston isn’t shrugging at these expenditures, but he thinks his opponents’ efforts are backfiring.
“If the message is, ‘Philip is not effective,’ then no, that message will not sell. My record speaks for itself,” he says.”If you’re a popular incumbent with a really great track record, the only way to beat me is to lie. Those fliers say more about them than they do about me.”
The mailers and digital ads mainly have criticized Kingston’s disparaging remarks to council colleagues and belittling of city staff (the latter, he says, are quotes taken out of context). Wood, stumping at a meet and greet last week, similarly critiqued Kingston’s “tenor and divisiveness, over the last two years in particular.”
Wood maintains, however, that even though “some of the folks supporting them [For Our Community] are supporting me,” he and his campaign “had nothing to do with that.”
“I understand their frustration, and I’m hearing it more and more as I’m meeting with residents in District 14 and people who are in the business community in District 14,” Wood says. “It’s really not what I’m about, though. I’d just as soon things not get dirty and people vote based on what they hear.”
Wood’s campaign motto is “positive change,” and taking issue with Kingston’s approach to city politics is one of the main ways he is distancing himself from the incumbent.
“I’m not snarky. You’re not going to get any interesting Facebook or Twitter comments from me,” Wood noted at the meet and greet. He advocated “using our diversity as a common starting point from which differences can be settled. The last couple of years, I feel like we’ve lost that from this district. We don’t have someone who’s trying to get things done.”
Kingston, however, believes that his success on City Council is exactly why he’s under attack.
“I think what you see is that the money from inside the district is coming to me, and the money from outside the district is going to ‘DoorMatt’,” Kingston says, using his new nickname for Wood after someone at a campaign event asked whether the district wants a leader or a doormat. “We all looked at each other and said, ‘Oh my gosh, his name is actually Matt!’ ”
Kingston’s latest campaign finance report shows a number of out-of-district donors along with in-district, as does Wood’s. For Our Community’s reports don’t list addresses, only zip codes, so it’s hard to tell who does or doesn’t live in the district, but the substantial number of donors with Park Cities and Preston Hollow zip codes certainly don’t.
Even more interesting is that anti-Kingston mailers have been sent to homes beyond District 14. Homes in Councilman Mark Clayton’s District 9 and and in Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates’ District 13 have received them too, Kingston says.
“They want to prevent me from winning any other office,” Kingston reasons.
We asked if he’s referring to the mayoral race he is widely rumored to pursue in the future, and whether the tens of thousands in his campaign coffers may come in handy for that race.
“I’m not free to comment on that at this time,” Kingston says.
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