For the first time in the 2009 mayoral campaign season, City Controller Annise Parker outraised former City Attorney Gene Locke, according to the final campaign finance reports released before the Dec. 12 runoff.
Parker’s nearly $1.6 million haul in slightly less than six weeks is a clear surge from the general election, when her campaign frequently was outraised or outspent by rivals. Locke took in about $1.2 million.
Both candidates spent about $1.2 million and have slightly more than $350,000 in their war chests, an amount analysts said would constrain them somewhat in the final week of the race.
Nancy Sims, a longtime Houston political consultant who has blogged about the campaign, said the contest remains wide open.
“It’s impressive that Parker raised so much money because in the first round she seemed to struggle to keep up,” Sims said. “But beyond that, I don’t find anything revealing in the numbers since they’re both very close.”
Joe Householder, a communications consultant who has worked on or observed many Houston municipal elections as a journalist, said both sides most likely are about $200,000 short of where they would like to be heading into the final week.
Final pushes to voters in major campaigns are expensive, he said, with efforts to get out targeted voters, television advertising and sometimes heavy increases in the number of paid staffers.
“These candidates know that it’s really a down-to-the-wire race,” he said. “There’s nobody winning this in a walk.”
Both sides aggressively asked for volunteers and donors before the Wednesday deadline. Election rules allowed Parker and Locke to go back to donors who gave the $5,000 maximum in the general election for another round, and both did, according to their reports.
Although the filings were unavailable on the city’s Web site Friday, both sides provided them to the Houston Chronicle upon request.
Locke went back to many of the same donors that have fueled his candidacy from the outset, including a who’s who of Houston’s political and business elite. Major donors included former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, METRO Chairman David Wolff, restaurant magnate Tilman Fertitta, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair and ex-Kemah Mayor Bill King.
Employees and the political action committee of the law firm Andrews Kurth, where Locke is a senior partner, donated more than $45,000 to his runoff campaign, and three METRO board members contributed $10,200. Locke had a total of about 800 donors.
Law firms weigh in
Numerous supporters of City Councilman Peter Brown, who endorsed Parker shortly after placing third behind her and Locke on election day, contributed the maximum to the controller.
Her fundraising strength came from more than 3,000 donors, including Continental Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek, philanthropost Nancy Kinder, the Annie’s List political action committee and the Service Employees International Union.
Several major law firms gave the maximum or close to both candidates, a sign they believed the race was too close to call and wanted to hedge their bets, analysts said.
The data show Parker gave her campaign a $30,000 loan before the general election, underscoring the slight disadvantage she was at in the November balloting against the better-funded Locke and Brown, who spent in excess of $4 million of his family’s fortune on the race.
In a reversal, the latest report shows her campaign already has paid for TV advertising in the final week, allowing much of the rest to be spent focusing on turnout of the voters they have identified as key to victory.