Austin Mayoral Candidate Steve Adler Touts Eearly Fundraising Lead

Providing an early glimpse into his fundraising prowess, Austin mayoral candidate Steve Adler said Tuesday he has raised $363,000 in seven weeks — more than current Mayor Lee Leffingwell raised either of the two times he ran for the office.

The Adler campaign said that money came from 1,400 individual donors but would not disclose from whom. The city limits campaign contributions to $350 per person, or $700 for a couple.

“No loans from Steve or anyone else,” campaign spokesperson Ron Oliveira said.

The deadline for filing campaign fundraising reports is July 15, and Oliveira said the campaign is still “verifying information to make sure we comply with city laws.”

“This is an unprecedented start,” said Laura Hernandez, the finance director for the Adler campaign. “Especially given two current council members are also running for mayor.”

This year’s race for Austin mayor is unusual. It’s an open race with no incumbents, and the election will be held in November instead of May, meaning a significantly higher voter turnout and more pressure to raise money to reach those new voters, consultants say. It’s also the first election under the new City Council made up of 10 geographic districts, so only the mayor is running as a citywide candidate.

Adler’s most high-profile opponents, Council Members Sheryl Cole and Mike Martinez, said they weren’t prepared to release their fundraising totals early, though each confirmed they wouldn’t be in the same ballpark as Adler.

“That’s a ton of money,” said former campaign consultant Peck Young, who now runs a public policy institute at Austin Community College. “Though I’m not particularly surprised that Steve raised that kind of money.”

Adler is an attorney who has worked on eminent domain issues — land the government wants to acquire — but has drawn the ire of environmentalists for representing developers in land-development battles.

He also has considerable ties to local Democratic politics, having served as the chairman for state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez’s re-election campaign and was a staff lawyer for state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh.

But Adler’s name recognition isn’t as high as Cole and Martinez, who have served on the City Council since 2006. That makes it even more vital that he raise money to communicate with voters, consultants say.

His opponents depict him as a millionaire who is supported by business interests. Adler is widely expected to tap into his own personal wealth to fund his campaign. He already loaned the campaign $120,000 in the spring.

“We never expected to out-raise or out-spend Adler’s wealth or connection to the chamber and business elite,” said Martinez campaign manager Matt Parkerson.

Cole’s campaign manager, Kevin Opp, offered a similar zing, calling Adler the “money candidate.”

“He’ll learn that Austin is a grass-roots community and big money will only take you so far,” Opp said.

Young said that Adler could be on track to spend $1 million this campaign — a fundraising total for an Austin mayoral race that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s. But money isn’t everything in a citywide campaign, he said.

“It doesn’t mean he is going to win,” Young said. “It means he has an edge.”

Mayoral Campaign Fundraising Totals

Austin mayoral candidate Steve Adler said Tuesday he has raised $363,000 in seven weeks, more than previous candidates raised in their entire campaigns. By way of comparison:

• In the 2012 campaign for mayor, Lee Leffingwell raised $325,112, and Brigid Shea raised $118,938.

• In the 2009 campaign for mayor, Leffingwell raised $280,073, and Brewster McCracken raised $301,846.

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