Mayor Steve Adler has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for his 2018 re-election bid, according to a campaign finance report filed Wednesday — a big early war chest in a city that caps individual donations at just $350.
The donations, from more than 1,100 individual donors in the last two months of 2017, totaled $283,164, according to the report. They came mostly in the final weeks of December, after Adler formally began fundraising for re-election. His campaign touted the number of individual donors as a “record number of contributors.”
Adler’s opponent, former City Council Member Laura Morrison, who did not begin fundraising until this month, did not need to file a report for 2017. She said she expects Adler to outspend her in the race.
In addition to fundraising, Adler has previously loaned himself large amounts of money. His finance report shows the campaign still owes him $449,200 from his 2014 bid, when he became the first candidate to raise more than $1 million since Austin began tracking how much City Council candidates raise in their campaigns.
Reports for Council Members Ora Houston, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Ann Kitchen, Kathie Tovo and Ellen Troxclair, who are also up for re-election this year, showed a slower start to their campaigns. None has raised more than $1,050 so far, and Houston and Kitchen have not started taking donations at all.
Three potential opponents to Houston and Troxclair filed reports, with Paige Ellis, a marketing specialist weighing a run against Troxclair, raising the most — $3,931.
Adler’s campaign finance forms show donations totaling $8,150 from 28 people linked to Endeavor Real Estate Group, a commercial real estate company and developer of projects including the Domain. Representatives of HDR Engineering, which has worked on city projects ranging from flood buyouts to planning road projects, donated $6,200 from 28 people.
Various Texas Democrats are early Adler supporters. State Sen. Kirk Watson and Will Wynn, both former Austin mayors, each gave $350. So did former state Sen. Wendy Davis and former Council Member Randi Shade. State Reps. Eddie Rodriguez and Celia Israel each donated $250. Brian McCall, a former Republican state representative and current Texas State University System chancellor, gave $350. Former Council Member Chris Riley contributed $25.
Local business interests who donated the maximum amount include Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League; Texas Disposal Systems CEO Bob Gregory and his wife; Visit Austin Vice President Julie Chase and her husband; Tiff’s Treats co-owner Tiffany Chen and her husband; and RetailMeNot CEO Cotter Cunningham. Richard Suttle, a prominent lobbyist and attorney, logged a $25 donation.
Capital Factory CEO Joshua Baer and a few family members gave Adler more than $1,000 combined. Baer publicly disagreed with Adler on the council’s fingerprint requirements for ride-hailing services and the subsequent election prompted by Uber and Lyft. But he still called himself a committed supporter to “the most business- and tech-friendly mayor we have had.”
South by Southwest representatives gave Adler a total of $2,450. The festival’s CEO, brand developer, communications director, event planner, music programmer, along with two of their spouses, donated the maximum amount.
This year marks a longer campaign season in Austin after a judge overturned the city’s previous six-month limit on fundraising before an election. In early October the council approved a one-year fundraising window before an election, which council members said they hoped would be more likely to survive a legal challenge.
Finance forms show Renteria and Troxclair accepted campaign donations before the council reinstated a fundraising time period. Troxclair, the only council member to vote against the new ordinance, accepted one campaign donation after it became effective Oct. 16 but before the one-year window for the Nov. 6 election began. She said Wednesday that was unintentional.
Campaign finance reports from many of the candidates came in a day behind the state deadline after a cold snap Tuesday led the city choose to close many offices, including that of the city clerk.
City Clerk Jannette Goodall sent an email to council members saying the deadline was extended to Wednesday and posted a notice on the city’s website. The city doesn’t really have the power to alter a Texas reporting requirement, according to the Texas Ethics Commission, but it probably won’t matter for candidates.
“I’m not aware of a provision in the statute that allows extending the deadline,” said Seana Willing, the state commission’s executive director. “What we’re going to do is work with any filers who were unable to file because of act of God issues.”
That means the commission will waive any fines imposed on late filers who can prove the lateness was out of their control, as it did with candidates affected by Hurricane Harvey, Willing said.
Goodall said she did not check with any state agencies before extending the deadline, but did check with city attorneys.