This article was updated on November 4, 2022 to add comments made by Max Grossman about the Pickett mailers.
As we reported yesterday, $275,524.37 in campaign contributions have been raised this election cycle by the 14 active candidates running for office. The largest amount was raised by district 5 incumbent Isabel Salcido. The lowest amount raised was Felix J. Munoz who is running for the district 5 seat. Munoz has not reported campaign contributions but has spent $2,883.16 on his campaign according to his 30-day financial report. Munoz has not filed an 8-day report as of this morning. El Paso News analyzed the financial reports for the city council races. This is what we found.
J.P Bryan, who lives in Houston, has outspent Woody Hunt this election cycle. Only when we factor in the $4,000 in campaign contributions made by Josh Hunt, does the Hunt family eek ahead of Bryan by $1,000 in campaign contributions.
Although Woody Hunt has been known for contributing heavily in elections with him generally leading the total contributions, this year the highest single contributor is Houstonian J.P. Bryan who is funding the litigation against the city to stop the 2012 proposed sports arena from being built in the Duranguito neighborhood.
We analyzed how the candidates fared from the Bryan/Hunt financial largess.
Our analysis found that campaign contributions were significant in all four district seats in contention. District 1, received almost $90,000 in campaign contributions. District six, where incumbent Claudia Rodriguez is fending off two challengers received about $75,000. District 5 candidates received almost $69,000 in campaign contributions. District 8, at about $41,000 was fourth.
In addition to the Bryan/Hunt campaign funding, it should be noted that district 8 contender, Brian Kennedy loaned his campaign $51,000 bringing his total campaign funding to almost $94,000, far outpacing his four challengers for the open district 8 seat. It should also be noted that Kennedy did not receive any support from J.P. Bryan nor Woody Hunt for his campaign.
Dark Money This Financial Cycle
Unfortunately this is not the full financial picture of this election cycle. There are several days left until Election Day where campaigns can raise and spend additional funds on their campaigns. These amounts will be reported once the election day has passed.
However, as we reported earlier, former city representative Joe Pickett has been buying mailers and paying for social media advertising advocating for candidates through his PAC. Pickett lacks transparency in his involvement in this election cycle. The knowledge of the activities of his PAC is only known because of our investigative reporting into the origins of the PAC and the campaign advocacy it is spending money on.
Pickett used the address of the wife of his son to register the PAC, suggesting that Pickett was hoping to avoid scrutiny over his expenditures this election cycle. In addition, the PAC does not list Pickett as the likely funding source for the political money it is spending on this election cycle.
By all definitions, the Pickett PAC is dark money being used during this election cycle.
In addition to the PAC several social media posts and GIFs have circulated online, some of which were professionally produced but lack the required political disclosure. At least one social media post targeted Duranguito activist Max Grossman. Grossman, for his part, has been actively endorsing and supporting candidates online. Some of his narratives have worked themselves into the Pickett mailings. However it is unclear if the narratives were picked up by Grossman from the Pickett advertisements or if Grossman worked with Pickett in the development of the Pickett mailers. In a text message exchange on November 3, 2022, Grossman denied having any involvement in the “design or content” of Pickett’s mailers and social media content. Grossman suggested that Pickett may have used his information from the emails he sends to his mailing list. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that the social media posts have significant financial expenditures attached to them that would require a political expense disclosure.
In the case of Pickett, his PAC is not required to disclose how much it raised and how much it has spent until next year, well after this election cycle. And although, voters will know how much was spent by Pickett to influence voters, the fact remains that at the moment his political expenditures influencing the voters is not transparent. It is dark money designed to influence the voters.
Polling Suggests Clear Outcomes
Preliminary exit polling before early voting ends tomorrow suggests that there will likely be runoff in districts 1, 8 and 6. In district 1, Brian Kennedy could win after the final ballots are counted but it is likely that Analisa Cordova Silverstein will force him into a runoff.
In district 6, incumbent Claudia Lizette Rodriguez will likely face challenger Art Fierro in a run off election.
District 8 will likely be a run off. However, it is unclear which of the three candidates would face off in a runoff as Bettina Olivares and Rich Wright are head to head with Chris Canales siphoning votes off the top two contenders.
Incumbent Isabel Salcido enjoys a comfortable lead in district 5 going into the last day of early voting, according to preliminary polling data.
Stay with El Paso News for continued coverage of Election 2022.
Disclosure: Candidates Isabel Salcido and Claudia Rodriguez purchased advertising in the El Paso News voting guide. Additionally Rodriguez contracted technical support from the author’s technology company. These services are provided separately from the publication and have no bearing on our reporting.