City Council campaigns are (thankfully) nonpartisan. There is no “D” or “R” next to anybody’s name on the ballot. All voters want safe streets, fewer potholes and great parks. There are plenty of politics in municipal problem solving, but the politics are about turf, money and egos, not the things Democrats and Republicans normally argue about.
The campaign finance reports filed by City Council candidates provide a lens into how each candidate may lean politically and the breadth and depth of their local support. The breadcrumbs get real big, real quick.
Candidates are required to file year-end disclosures and then an additional filing 30 days before the May 1 election.
Incumbent David Blewett
The power of incumbency includes the ability to raise money. Blewett got a good head start, raising $53,135 from July 2020 through the end of the year. To go along with his cash on hand, he reported $72,288 in the bank before the other candidates got started. Thirty days from the election, Blewett reported another $18,750 in contributions, so more than $100,000 in gunpowder.
The incumbent is generally not the change-agent candidate. Blewett is no exception. His financial supporters include current Councilman Adam Bazaldua, former Councilman Mitch Rasansky, former Council candidate Bobby Abtahi, former DISD candidate Suzanne Smith, former State Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, former Plan Commission Chairman Joe Alcantar and Commit Partnership founder Todd Williams. No flamethrowers in that bunch.
Blewett has a finance and real estate background, and his contributors include a who’s who in Dallas real estate: Lucy Billingsley, Trammell Crow Company and Billingsley Company; Don McNamara, Hampstead; Don Williams, Trammell Crow Company; Joe Beard, Westdale; Chuck Anderson, Trammell Crow Company and Bandera; Leon Backes, Provident; Pryor Blackwell, Trammell Crow Company and Bandera; Brian Boyle, Newmark; and Jeff Price, Walker and Dunlop. Pretty much the business establishment right there.
The two most noteworthy contributions came from former Mayors Ron Kirk and Mike Rawlings. I didn’t see Laura Miller on the list. Enough said.
Challenger Paul Ridley
An attorney and urban planner, Ridley served eight years as former Councilman Philip Kingston’s appointee to the Plan Commission. He was generally regarded as the heir apparent to the District 14 seat until Kingston’s bedside manner and David Blewett got in the way.
Ridley’s base isn’t the moneyed sort. Maybe he is. Ridley raised $700 in 2020 but loaned his campaign $20,000 on the last day of the year. His loan carries a borrower-friendly interest rate of 0 percent.
In the report due 30 days before the election, Ridley reported another $11,677 in contributions. Recognizable names are Philip Kingston and community activists Norma Minnis and Sharon Von Buskirk. Thirty days before the election, and Ridley has reported just over $12,000 in contributions? Seems light.
Challenger Elizabeth Viney
Winner of the 2017 Good Works Under 40 Award from the Dallas Foundation and Dallas Morning News, Viney is a litigator and a newcomer to local politics. Her financial reports cast a newcomer’s shadow.
No contributions were reported in 2020, but in the 30 days before the election filings, she reported $65,590 in contributions. Outside of that number, Viney also loaned her campaign $20,000 at what seems to be the market campaign interest rate of 0%. The contributions were diverse in some respect. Cash came from Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, Arizona, Virginia, Delaware, Tennessee, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.
Viney received the only reported PAC contribution in any of the filings: $2,500 from the Campaign for Working Families, a conservative political action committee founded by former presidential candidate Gary Bauer.
Viney’s contributions are less diverse in one way. There are 24 contributors and $16,500 from residents of her hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana, or its suburbs.
Local contributors have a similar conservative bent and include billionaire and conservative contributor Darwin Deason, former Republican County Commissioner Maurine Dickey and former Fifth District Congressional candidate Bunni Pounds.
Election Day is May 1. Early voting begins April 19.
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