Theodore Scheifler at the Houston Chronicle has a great new story out today on the first big fight over the 2015 Mayoral election. As explained previously, the gaggle of politicians looking into the race are specifically prohibited from raising money for the contest until February of next year (the election will be in November 2015). Like I noted in my overview of the candidates last month, the likely candidates include both incumbent officeholders and non-incumbents. This is important because those who hold other offices may continue raising money for them while those who do not hold offices may not raise any money.
This has lead to a squabble between the the two arguable frontrunners: State Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Harris County) and former Congressman Chris Bell (D-TX25). Turner, a current officeholder, is a Mayoral candidate in all but name; and yet, he continues prolifically raising money that is ostensibly for his State Legislative races (Turner is running unopposed for the State House this November). Scheifler notes that, at a recent fundraiser, he took in more than $4000,000 alone. Bell, meanwhile, cannot do any of this because he does not currently hold any political office.
Bell and his law partner, Geoffrey Berg, have officially complained to City Attorney David Feldman about this policy. For friendly PACs and other campaign organizations, there is a hard limit of $10,000 that may be transferred into a Mayoral account. However, Feldman has interpreted the city’s finance rules to allow for incumbent officeholders to transfer the first $5,000 of a plausibly endless amount of individual donations into a Mayoral account.
Turner’s campaign had no statement, and I’m still waiting on Bell’s campaign to get back to me.
The point Berg makes in his letter, which is attached in the Chronicle article, is honestly somewhat compelling. He diligently cites the sentiment expressed at City Council when these provisions were pushed through in 2005, complete with detailed quotations from former City Attorney Arturo Michel, former City Councilmembers Carol Mims Galloway (D-District B) and Gordon Quan (D-At Large 2), respectively. The precedent they outlined, as well as the one followed by City Councilmember Ellen Cohen (D-District C) when she first ran for the post (Cohen had previously served as a State Representative. She had money in her account leftover and refunded it to contributors), is hard to argue with.
I’m not saying that the most prudent course of action would be limiting Turner to one $10,000 deposit of his State Rep money into his Mayoral account. I tend to think these blackout dates on fundraising are a little silly, and wouldn’t see any problem with Bell raising money now. In fact, I’d probably prefer it. My point is that the unequal treatment of the two candidates is what is unacceptable.
What do you think?