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With less than 30 days before the election, Mayor Ron Nirenberg has built up a generous reserve of campaign funds while Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), his primary challenger, has not been as fiscally active.
The mayor reported about $152,000 in contributions and nearly $160,000 in expenditures compared to Brockhouse’s $51,000 raised and $44,500 spent. Nirenberg has a little more than $283,000 in reserve compared to Brockhouse’s nearly $15,000, according to the candidates’ most recent campaign finance reports filed last week that cover Jan. 1 to March 25.
Brockhouse is getting some help from the police and firefighters union political action committees (PACs), which already have raised money and launched advertising efforts on the Councilman’s behalf. However, neither union has commented publicly on whether more money is on the way.
The San Antonio Police Officers Association’s PAC has spent $78,300 cumulatively on election campaigns since late February, and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association’s PAC has spent about $22,300, according to reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.
Both unions have endorsed Brockhouse, who worked for the unions before he ran for City Council, but the police PAC also supports other candidates on the May 4 ballot, including incumbent Council members Ana Sandoval (D7), John Courage (D9), Clayton Perry (D10), as well as newcomers Adriana Rocha-Garcia in District 4 and Melissa Cabello Havrda in District 6, and its report does not indicate which portion of that money was used for Brockhouse. The fire union will release a list of other candidates it supports this week, a spokesman said.
Several of Brockhouse’s critics, including Nirenberg, have said the first-term councilman’s close relationship with the unions – and considerable monetary support – create a conflict of interest.
Brockhouse has said he’s proud of the marketing and political consulting work he has done for public safety unions in the past. He worked as a consultant for the police union as it was negotiating its labor contract and helped the firefighters union challenge Council’s pay charter amendment and a San Antonio Water System rate hike related to the Vista Ridge water pipeline.
“That is the special-interest group we gotta watch out for,” Nirenberg has said, referencing large public safety union payments to Brockhouse for his work in previous years.
Brockhouse said if elected mayor, he would work with the firefighters union to find a fair deal for firefighters and taxpayers. He also rejects the notion that he is beholden to unions.
“My special interest is neighborhoods,” Brockhouse said during a recent debate, “I’d rather be loyal to police officers and firefighters than [former City Manager] Sheryl Sculley and [former Mayor] Phil Hardberger.”
Nirenberg’s campaign contributors include prominent business owners, developers, employers, and other citizens. There are no PACs registered with the state for the specific purpose of raising money on Nirenberg’s behalf, however, the USAA Employee PAC has contributed to his campaign.
PACs representing the San Antonio Apartment Association and Security Service Federal Credit Union have contributed to Brockhouse’s campaign.
Campaign contributions to mayoral candidates are capped at $1,000 per election. There are no caps on PACs contributions as long as they are not directly coordinating with candidates.
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