Mike Kueber's Blog

January 4, 2013

Gilbert Garcia and campaign reporting

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:39 pm
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The past couple of weeks, I have been thinking more seriously about running this spring for the San Antonio City Council.  Last week, I talked to a friend about setting up a campaign website.  The guy is an entrepreneur with a passing interest in politics, and he had talked on his Facebook book wall about setting up political websites in the past.  Based on my frugality, I figured getting the help of a friend was a better deal than hiring an off-shore Indian vendor, like I did with my congressional race in 2010.

Boy, was I surprised to learn that my friend had more than a passing interest in politics.  He told me that he had managed campaigns for several years and was recently hired to help pass San Antonio’s Pre-K 4 SA.  He wasn’t sure how much an effective campaign would cost (mostly signs and direct mail), but promised to do some background work and get back with me.  (Incidentally, he also told me that the popular campaign consultants in San Antonio are not really hired for their knowledge of either campaign policy or campaign spending, but rather for their ability to call on contributors with deep pockets.  Interesting.)         

I told my friend that, although I had spent $15,000 of my own money running for Congress, I didn’t know whether I wanted to spend any money running for City Council, which is, after all, essentially a volunteer position.  In contrast, the two already-declared candidates for District 8 – Rolando Briones and Ron Nirenberg – had already raised $100k and $30k by July of last year. 

Obviously, I won’t be able to compete with these guys on signs or direct mailings, and I’m not sure that I can compete with them on energy/motivation.  Briones recently noted on his campaign website that he had already knocked on 3,500 doors.  This guy apparently has a thriving engineering business (near Alamo Heights and in other cities) and a young family, with an election four months away, and yet he is motivated to wage this sort of battle over 5,000 votes for a volunteer position.  The other guy, Nirenberg, works for the Trinity University radio station and has almost a decade of experience in developing public policy while at an Ivy League university.  Their biggest weakness is that their connection to District 8 is tenuous – i.e., they happen to live in District 8 now, but they don’t work there and probably relate better to the Downtown crowd.     

A column in today’s Express-News by Gilbert Garcia provides a good example of the role that campaign money plays in a local political campaign.  Garcia talks about a campaign for the State Board of Education, but he could as easily have been talking about a campaign for the City Council when he said:

  • It’s usually not viewed as a gotcha question.  If you’re putting yourself out there in a political race, it’s a given that you’ll have to reveal how much your campaign is raising and spending, what you do for a living and who is working to get you elected.”

Briones and Nirenberg will be prepared when asked that question.  They will have thousands of dollars to spend on signs and direct mail.  The Briones campaign is being managed by former District #8 Councilman Art Hall and has been endorsed by County Commissioner Kevin Wolff, while the Nirenberg campaign is being managed by former District #8 Councilwoman Bonnie Connor and has been endorsed by former Mayors Phil Hardberger, Bill Thornton, and Howard Peak.

Although I’m tempted to criticize these candidates (especially Briones) for trying to buy the election, I have previously declared, semi-seriously, that my life would not be greatly different if I won the lottery except that in my next political campaign I would provide significantly more self-funding. 

So, if I had the money, I would probably spend it on my campaign, too.  If I don’t have the money, I will probably see if social media can level the playing field.  That is a principle worth getting excited about.  Anything that makes for a smarter voter.



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