Super-sized campaign cash
Which candidate has spent the most money in the District 14 council race?
None of the above.
As of press time, a registered 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 of the three candidates in the race have spent trying to promote themselves. The Super PAC, by law, is not directly associated with any local politician or candidate.
District 14 includes the M Streets, Lower Greenville and Old East Dallas. All candidates and PACs are required by the Texas Ethics Commission to file campaign finance reports at various points before the election. According to the April 6 reports, challenger Matt Wood, who lives in Junius Heights, had raised nearly $46,000 and spent roughly $6,000. Kingston, who lives in the Belmont Addition Historic District, had raised more than $50,000 since January and spent a little less than $20,000. Challenger and Downtown resident Kim Welch had not reported raising or spending any money.
Combined with Kingston’s previous donations, the almost $95,000 in his campaign coffers going into the May 6 election was more than double Wood’s $40,000.
For Our Community had $185,000 going into 2017 and, since January, solicited another $86,000, bringing its grand total to $271,000 30 days prior to the election. (Super PACs, unlike candidates, don’t have limits on donations they can accept from individuals or corporations. They’re often involved with state and national political races; they typically haven’t been involved in individual Dallas political races.)
For Our Community’s latest campaign finance report makes explicit its support of five City Council incumbents and one challenger — Monica Alonzo, Rick Callahan, Casey Thomas, Erik Wilson, Tiffinni Young and Matt Wood.
Kingston is the only candidate For Our Community appears to be spending money to oppose, and he seems to be a big focus of the donors’ efforts. Of the roughly $95,000 the Super PAC has spent so far, more than a third of the money has been directed toward anti-Kingston efforts.
“If the message is, ‘Philip is not effective,’ then no, that message will not sell. My record speaks for itself,” Kingston 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 recently, similarly critiqued Kingston’s “tenor and divisiveness, over the last two years in particular.”
Wood says, however, that even though “some of the folks supporting [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.”
In addition to the mailers attacking Kingston, For Our Community funded at least one of Wood’s April promotional mailers. It reinforced the challenger’s “positive change” campaign motto. Taking issue with Kingston’s approach to city politics is one of the main ways Wood 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 told the crowd 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 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 along with in-district donors, as does Wood’s. For Our Community’s reports don’t list addresses, only zip codes, so it’s not clear 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 says.
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, Kingston says, “I’m not free to comment on that at this time.”
However, when asked if he was interested in the mayor’s seat by another Advocate editor in March, he replied, “Of course I am.”
Go online to lakewood.advocatemag.com for links to each candidate’s donor list and up-to-date election reporting.
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