Campaign spending skyrockets in Weslaco mayoral race

David Suarez and Adrian Gonzalez
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One doesn’t have to be a Weslaco resident to know that there’s a race on for mayor of the Mid-Valley city.

In recent weeks, political advertisements for the two candidates — incumbent David Suarez and challenger Adrian Gonzalez — have blanketed the airwaves, social media and even cellphone text messages.

But campaign finance reports submitted by the two hopefuls show that Suarez is not only outraising Gonzalez, but is outspending his challenger by 10-to-1.

State law requires political candidates to submit campaign finance reports on a regular basis — one that accelerates as Election Day approaches.

Candidates are required to submit reports detailing donations and expenditures seven days prior to Election Day, and 30 days prior to Election Day. Further, a new state law — HB 2626 — requires those reports to be posted on a city’s website.

Figures from the Oct. 10 and Oct. 30 reports show that Suarez — who was first elected mayor in 2013 — has a sizable war chest at his disposal.

In just one month, Suarez raised $67,000 in political contributions, according to his seven-day report.

Over the same period — between Sept. 29 and Oct. 28 — the mayor spent nearly that entire amount at just over $61,550, while maintaining an additional $40,500 left over from contributions made during prior reporting periods.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, reported just $6,000 in political contributions in his seven-day campaign finance report, though the report does not include a date range over which those contributions were collected.

The report shows that Gonzalez had expended most of the funds — $5,380 — by the Oct. 30 filing deadline.

Suarez has used the contributions to invest heavily in various forms of advertising.

David Suarez

The seven-day report shows he spent more than $39,000 on advertising throughout the month of October, including nearly $5,000 on print news advertising, and almost $12,000 on television ads.

AIM Media Texas, the parent company of The Monitor, was the recipient of some of those expenditures.

The mayor invested additional advertising dollars online, including several entries listing Facebook as the advertising platform.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez’s seven-day report indicates he made just three political advertising expenses, including $1,000 on an Oct. 2 boxing event, $2,500 at an Oct. 22 golf tournament listed in the report as “Adrian Farias Campaign,” and $180 on push cards.

Suarez’s 30-day report, which covers a period from July 1 through Sept. 28, shows he spent as much money over the course of those three months as he did spend in October alone.

The 30-day report shows that Suarez raised just $8,800 in contributions over that three-month span, while spending more than $60,300.

At the end of that reporting period, the mayor still had more than $35,000 in his campaign coffers.

That’s because Suarez has been raising campaign funds since the beginning of the year.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, Suarez raised over $92,000 in contributions, according to a July campaign finance report The Monitor obtained via a Texas Public Information Act request.

Suarez used up less than one-third of those funds during the first half of the year, leaving him a substantial cushion to use as the election draws nearer.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, raised just $7,125 in contributions by the July filing deadline, though, again, the report does not list a date range over which the contributions were collected.

But both the July report and the Oct. 10 report show Gonzalez has self-funded his campaign to some extent by contributing $12,000 of his own funds to the endeavor.

He also took out a $1,850 loan, according to the July report.

Adrian Gonzalez

Perhaps most notably, Gonzalez has garnered the endorsement of the Weslaco firefighters’ union, the Weslaco Firefighters Association L3207.

The group’s political action committee has invested in reaching out to voters on social media — where their Facebook page is filled with posts urging residents to vote for Gonzalez — but also via a coordinated text message campaign.

“As you may have seen online, your firefighters are very concerned that when you call 911, our city may not have the right number of firefighters to respond,” reads one text message obtained by The Monitor.

“That’s why we’re supporting Adrian Gonzalez for Mayor,” it further reads, before citing that the message is a political advertisement by the Weslaco Firefighters Association PAC Fund.

Gonzalez’s seven-day report shows that the firefighter PAC made an undated $1,000 contribution to his campaign.

Neither Gonzalez’s 30-day nor July campaign finance reports show any other political contributions from the PAC; however, the Gonzalez campaign donated $500 to the firefighters union on Sept. 9, according to the 30-day report.

Suarez’s supporters, meanwhile, include not only dozens of individual donors, but also a smaller number of local businesses and at least one PAC.

Suarez’s seven-day report shows that the largest recent contribution — $10,000 — came on Sept. 29 from S2 Engineering PLLC, a company based out of Mission.

The company made two other contributions for $5,000 each on Sept. 25 and May 5, Suarez’s reports show.

Two Weslaco law firms also contributed to the mayor’s campaign — Jones, Galligan, Key, Lozano LLP and the Law Office of Ezequiel Reyna. Each donated $1,500, the seven-day report shows.

The mayor’s seat isn’t the only one that Weslaco voters will decide on next Tuesday.

Inside the Legislative Chamber, of Weslaco City Hall in August 2013. (Courtesy: City of Weslaco/Facebook)

Voters will also choose their next representative for the District 2 seat, where incumbent Leticia “Letty” Lopez is facing challenger Pete Garcia.

But the spending by those two candidates has been far more subdued than the mayoral race.

Lopez’s seven-day report shows that she raised $10,000 in contributions between Sept. 29 and Oct. 28.

Over that same period, she spent $14,830.37 in contributions, and an additional $675 of her funds. Her campaign also maintained a loan balance of $23,200.

By the end of the reporting period, Lopez had just over $2,800 in contributions left.

Garcia’s seven-day report shows he raised just $900 between Sept. 27 and Oct. 30, and spent $531.95 of that by the end of the reporting period.

Garcia took out an additional $500 in loans and contributed $173.20 of his own funds to his campaign, the report shows.