San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz spent nearly $100,000 in campaign funds during the year ending on June 30. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz burned through nearly $100,000 in campaign expenditures during a one-year period between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, according to campaign finance reports on file with the city.
Of $99,757.84 Narvaiz reported spending, close to half of it – $42,530.85 – was spent during the first six months of 2009, a period starting nearly two months after the Nov. 4, 2008, election.
Narvaiz’s fundraising and spending activity for the unpaid position dwarves the combined efforts of her two 2008 mayoral election challengers, retired pilot David Newman and Texas State student Daniel McCarthy.
Candidates in November 2008 elections were required to file two reports leading up to Election Day – one covering the period from July 1, 2008 to Sept. 25, 2008, and the other accounting Sept. 26, 2008 to Oct. 25, 2008. On his two reports leading up to the election, Newman reported raising $2,331 and lending himself another $3,000, then spending a total of $5,114.25.
Newman did not file a report after the election, as required by the Texas Ethics Commission. Newman’s treasurer, Daniel Praver, said the hard drive on the computer containing that information crashed and he is unable to retrieve the figures.
McCarthy signed a statement with the ethics commission swearing that he would neither raise nor expend more than $500 on his campaign.
On her two reports leading to the election, Narvaiz reported raising a combined $21,665 and taking out a $20,000 loan, then spending $35,815.40.
Despite outspending her two opponents combined at a ratio of about seven-to-one as of eight days before the election, Narvaiz took barely more than 50 percent of the vote. Narvaiz won 6,451 votes (50.08 percent) to Newman’s 3,868 (30.03) percent, while McCarthy took 2,563 votes (19.89 percent). If Narvaiz had received nine fewer votes, she would have been forced into a run-off election against Newman.
Having won the election, Narvaiz’s fundraising campaign had only just begun. On two subsequent campaign finance reports – one dated Jan. 15, 2009, and the other dated July 15, 2009 – Narvaiz claims to have raised a combined $53,137.50, while spending $63,942.44. As of June 30, having paid off her $20,000 loan, Narvaiz reported $142.68 remaining in her coffers.
Narvaiz said it’s not uncommon for elected officials to take in contributions after the election, in efforts “to retire debt.” Narvaiz added that she waited until after the November election to push for the majority of her contributions because the busy election season was straining contributors.
Topping her contributor list is San Marcos developer and entrepreneur T.P. Gilmore, who ponied up a total of $14,465 – $1,500 in July 2008, $465.22 in September 2008 and $12,500 in February 2009.
“There are certain people that are always on your support list,” Narvaiz said. “I think that most candidates will find that there’s only a certain amount of your people that can afford that. I don’t think most people can afford to just shoulder that expense.”
Gilmore’s February contribution, alone, exceeds the combined campaign expenditures claimed in the last year by every other candidate on the November 2008 city ballot. Councilmember Chris Jones claimed spending $2,801.95 in the last year. His November 2008 opponent, Lisa Marie Coppoletta, signed the waiver saying she would neither raise nor spend more than $500. Coppoletta has since hired a treasurer, Griffin Spell, for her city council run this fall against Shaune Maycock. Coppoletta reports raising $60 between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2009. Councilmember Fred Terry, who ran unopposed in November 2008, claims to have spent $782.71 in the last year.
Narvaiz also received $5,000 from Bartlett, IL, homebuilder James P. Bigelow, $5,000 from Houston developer Charles Leyendecker, and another $5,000 from CB&B Realty in San Marcos.
Narvaiz received another six contributions of $2,000 or more, none of which came from San Marcos. Those contributors include Dennis Bearden of Houston, R. Leldon Sweet of Beaumont, Douglas Barclay of Wimberley, the Umphrey Family Limited Partnership of Wimberley, Paul Bury of Austin and the Texas Association of Realtors political action committee (PAC) in Austin.
Narvaiz received another ten individual contributions of $1,000, six of them from out of town. The local contributions of $1,000 came from auto dealer Chuck Nash, Hays County Good Government Partners, and San Marcos residents Shane Fraser and Richard Burdick.
Those top 20 contributors provided Narvaiz with a combined $52,215.22 of the $74,802.50 she raised during the year ending on June 30. The remainder came from dozens of smaller contributions.
Narvaiz said she and her contributors sat down early in the re-election process and forecast that her campaign would need $75,000 and $85,000. Narvaiz said accepting vast amounts of money from few contributors does not affect her vision for the city, and does not manipulate her vote.
“I don’t think there is any undue influence,” Narvaiz said. “They like to support people who are good office holders. They pick candidates they feel are doing a great job for the city. They were proud to support me.”
Candidates for federal office have contribution limits, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), while the state of Texas only bans corporate contributions. Narvaiz said she would explore capping contributions at the municipal level if her constituents want it.
“I haven’t explored the pros and cons of caps, because that is not the current law,” Narvaiz said. “But if it provides a better process, I’m not against exploring it.”
Narvaiz said opening a campaign office “bared much of the brunt” of her expenses. Narvaiz said expenses included rent, utilities, and staff. Narvaiz hired an office manager, Gloria Salazar, who also was her campaign treasurer, at a base salary of $36,000 for 2008. Narvaiz also hired a part-time employee, Nancy Tunnell. The office was closed in December 2008.
Narvaiz’ campaign expenditures recorded payments totaling $26,463.01 to the Sedona Group of Moline, IL, between July 2008 and June 2009. She expended $22,500 of those funds since Jan. 1, 2009.
Narvaiz said the Sedona Group took care of issuing payroll for Salazar and Tunell, including taxes. The Sedona Group is the parent company of Sedona Staffing, for which Narvaiz owned a local franchise until 2005. Narvaiz now is a contractor for Sedona Staffing.
Narvaiz said it was necessary to open an office in order to separate her campaign from her duties as mayor and her personal employment.
The Narvaiz campaign took a loan “for the first time ever” as she sought her third term in office. Narvaiz borrowed $20,000 at a three-percent interest rate from her sister-in-law, Kelly Clifford of Helotes, TX, on Aug. 3, 2008. The reports disclose that Narvaiz paid Clifford back $5,096.76 on Oct. 6, 2008, $5,113.16 on Dec. 24, 2008, then $7,053.42 on Feb. 26, 2009, and $3,009.61 on April 6, 2009. Narvaiz shows no outstanding campaign loan debt as of June 30, 2009.
The mayor also reimbursed herself 12 times during the year from her campaign funds to a total of $5,959.30 for political expenditures she made from her personal resources.
Narvaiz said she enjoys serving the people of San Marcos and that a 2010 re-election bid “is possible.” Narvaiz acknowledged rumors that she will run for Hays County Judge, or look into holding state office, but for now, she said, she is concentrating on being the mayor of San Marcos. Narvaiz said it is too early to begin speculations for the 2010 election.
“I always take my marching orders from a higher purpose,” Narvaiz said. “Until the Lord tells me where I march next, I’m open. I try to focus on the job and not worry about my political future.”
Narvaiz said she doesn’t subscribe to a particular political party, but if the people want her to run for County Judge, she would explore the possibility. Narvaiz said she and her husband have a strong faith and pray for guidance in hopes that “the Lord will lead the way.”
Said Narvaiz, “I’m not involved in partisan politics. I’ll wait for my higher authority to tell me what my next calling is. I prefer serving the people, and not a (political) party.”
Below are the campaign finance reports from the 2008 mayoral election in San Marcos:Email | Print