This article has been updated.
In the final weeks before the Nov. 8 midterm election, the race for Bexar County district attorney has attracted far more campaign spending than the high-profile race to replace retiring Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
Campaign finance reports due Monday showed Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales, a Democrat, benefited from more campaign spending than any other county-level candidate. He and a supporting political action committee spent $625,000 on his reelection race between Oct. 1 through Oct. 29.
Gonzales’ Republican opponent, Marc LaHood, also raised and spent big money in the most recent reporting period, shelling out close to $500,000 for polling, consulting and TV ads in the final stretch of the campaign.
“Obviously the district attorney’s position is a very powerful one,” Gonzales said in an interview last week about the money pouring into his race. “We make literally life and death decisions in our office, and so it’s important to elect the right leader.”
The barrage of ads in the district attorney’s race comes as fundraising dropped off dramatically for the GOP’s candidate for county judge.
Republican Trish DeBerry brought in just $56,000 in the past month, compared to Democrat Peter Sakai‘s $157,000 in the same span. DeBerry had previously kept pace with Sakai’s fundraising and was by far the county’s biggest political spender in campaign finance reports covering July 1 through Sept. 30.
Bexar County district attorney
Reports covering Oct. 1 through Oct. 29 show Gonzales benefited from roughly $570,000 in campaign help from the Texas Justice & Safety PAC, which spent nearly $1 million getting him elected in 2018. Gonzales defeated then-incumbent District Attorney Nico LaHood in the Democratic primary that year and won the general election with 61% of the vote.
The Texas Justice & Safety PAC is largely funded by billionaire businessman George Soros, who is known for spending heavily to support liberal causes, including criminal justice reform. It funded TV ads, digital ads, ad production and polling for Gonzales in the past month. Gonzales’ campaign spent only $42,000 of its own money, and he reported $234,000 in cash left on hand.
Marc LaHood, the brother of Nico LaHood, brought in $304,000 in the same span, including $40,000 from the conservative Defend Texas Liberty PAC, which gets much of its money from a handful of wealthy oil executives in West Texas. LaHood loaned his campaign $50,000, and he received $50,000 each from his father and law partner, Michael LaHood, and San Antonio businessman Jack Guenther Jr.
LaHood nearly emptied his campaign reserves in the past 30 days, spending $458,000 on TV ads, polling, consulting and other types of advertising. He received another $30,000 worth of in-kind TV and billboard ads from Calfas Law Group, and reported $25,000 on hand as of Oct. 29.
Bexar County judge
Both Sakai and DeBerry have advertised on TV, but spent far less in October than the district attorney candidates.
Sakai, who also spent big on a primary and primary runoff earlier this year, reported $260,000 in cash on hand to power him through the campaign’s final days. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 29 he spent $127,000 on advertising, fundraising and campaign workers.
DeBerry spent $144,000 on Facebook ads, campaign consulting and other advertising. Roughly $40,000 went to Everest Marketing, a firm owned by her former Commissioners Court staffer and former mayoral candidate Greg Brockhouse. She ended the month with $53,000 on hand.
During the end of September and beginning of October she was the target of at least $300,000 worth of anonymous attack ads that ran on TV and through direct mail. The latest campaign finance reports offer a few details about one of the groups, Patriots Lead Inc., which funded mail ads depicting DeBerry as Winnie-the-Pooh.
As of Tuesday, the dark-money group Friends of Bexar County LLC, which funded TV ads against DeBerry in late September and early October, still had not filed any documentation with the Texas Ethics Commission, as required by law.
Patriots Lead filed a campaign finance report indicating it had spent about $42,000 on direct mail ads opposing DeBerry. The group listed an address in Houston but left blank almost all of the other identifying details on the form. A voicemail left at an Austin phone number listed was not immediately returned Tuesday.
The report says Patriots Lead paid Houston-based Richmond Printing to print the mail ads and New York-based Democratic campaign firm Build The Wave to send text messages.
“We are going to spend our campaign to zero on Nov. 8. We are all in,” DeBerry said in a statement Tuesday.
“With nothing filed by Friends of Bexar County LLC, we are not seeing [the] true cost” of outside spending in the race, she added.
Precinct 3 commissioner
Korbel is a party activist who owns her own public opinion firm and has pulled in roughly $60,000 for her campaign. She was nominated by her party’s precinct chairs in February, back when numerous Republicans were still eyeing the position.
Moody is a Valero executive who previously ran PACs to help other candidates. He became his party’s nominee in July and has brought in about $250,000.
Moody reported raising $140,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30. He brought in another $104,000 during the month of October and benefited from $9,500 worth of voter data provided by Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign. He also received $4,200 worth of direct mail ads from the Charter Schools Now PAC.