San Marcos City Hall.
By SEAN BATURA
For its size and attributes, is San Marcos an expensive city in which to run for mayor?
Comparisons between San Marcos and similar cities in Texas indicate that mayoral campaigns in San Marcos are on the expensive side, especially for incumbents.
For her successful November 2008 re-election bid, San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz spent $99,757.84 between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, according to campaign finance reports. Narvaiz spent more than 13 times the total expenditures of her two opponents, David Newman and Daniel McCarthy, combined. Newman’s campaign finance reports showed that he spent $5,113.65, while McCarthy signed a statement with the Texas Ethics Commission saying he would not raise or spend more than $500.
Though Narvaiz almost certainly broke city records for campaign spending for 2008, large expenditures in San Marcos mayoral elections aren’t new. In the most recent previous contested election in 2004, Narvaiz and former Mayor Robert Habingreither spent about $70,000 between them.
Habingreither said he spent about $40,000 on his re-election campaign against Narvaiz that year, while campaign finance reports from that election show that Narvaiz spent $30,240.71 for campaigning between July 1, 2004, and June 30, 2005. Narvaiz defeated Habingreither in that election by 123 votes.
The city has maintained Narvaiz’ 2004 campaign finance reports, but not Habingreither’s, because Narvaiz remains active in political fundraising and Habingreither does not. The city clerk’s office said that once a candidate files a final finance report, which is an effective declaration that the candidate no longer intends to raise political money, that candidate’s finance reports are destroyed after two years. The state requires cities to maintain campaign finance reports for only two years.
Narvaiz’s 2008 campaign, along with accounts from former San Marcos Mayors Habingreither (2002-2004) and David Chiu (2000-2002), indicate that more money is available to incumbent mayors seeking re-election, thereby making re-election campaigns more expensive. Habingreither said he spent about $8,000 on his first campaign in 2002, while Chiu, unable to recall ballpark figures, said he spent much more to win in 2000 than to lose his re-election bid to Habingreither in 2002.
In an effort to determine how San Marcos stacks up in with respect to the cost of winning a mayoral election, Newstreamz collected campaign finance reports for mayoral winners from comparable cities. The comparisons are rough, as no other Texas city quite matches San Marcos in its coarsely defined characteristics.
San Marcos, home to Texas State University, claims a population of 50,373. The city is located 31 miles south of Austin and 49 miles north of San Antonio on Interstate-35. Newstreamz looked at local cities and other Texas university cities in the neighborhood of 50,000 population or higher, located on major highways. Following are the results:
Georgetown (population 49,741): Located 27 miles north of Austin and including Southwestern University, Georgetown provides the closest comparison with San Marcos. George Garver won the mayor’s race in May 2008, spending $18,190.46 between Feb. 11, 2008 and Jan. 15, 2009.
Garver received $740.10 and spent nothing in the last six months of 2008, a period starting about two months after the election. During a similar period after her November 2008 election, Narvaiz spent $42,530.85. Garver retained $2,170.87 in his campaign account as of Jan. 15, 2009. Narvaiz maintained $142.68 as of June 30, 2009.
New Braunfels (population 53,547): New Braunfels doesn’t have a university, but is located about 15 miles south of San Marcos and has a very similar total population. New Braunfels Mayor Bruce Boyer received $27,142 and spent $28,194.82 in his first successful bid for mayor in May 2005, which was the last contested mayoral election in the city.
Denton (population 105,550): Home to the University of North Texas and Texas Women’s College, Denton is 39 miles north of Dallas on U.S. 77 and about twice the size of San Marcos. Mayor Mark Burroughs spent $84,571.44 to win a May 2008 election that included a run-off.
The reports covered July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008. Burroughs received $5,984 and spent $29,067.09 in the report for the period between the May 10, 2008 general election and the runoff the following month. Burroughs reported $37,700 in outstanding loans from himself during the month of the runoff, and his campaign still carried the debt as of April 2009.
College Station (population 86,480): Mayor Ben White received $21,699.44 and spent $14,645.48 in his first successful mayoral win in 2007. White ran unopposed in 2009. College Station is home to Texas A&M University, 95 miles north of Houston and 104 miles east of Austin on U.S. 190.
Round Rock (population 91,571): Incumbent Thomas “Nyle” Maxwell spent $13,509.97 running successfully for re-election in May 2005, the last contested mayoral race in the city. The period covered in the reports was July 1, 2004, to December 31, 2005.
Maxwell received nothing and spent $1,012.11 in the last six months of 2005, following the election. As of December 31, 2005, Maxwell reported $30,171 remaining in his campaign account, most of which was left over from the $33,460.18 in contributions he received between July 1, 2004, and December 31, 2004.
Round Rock is home to the Round Rock Higher Education Center, an educational facility used by Texas State, Austin Community College, and Temple College at Taylor. Round Rock is 15 miles north of Austin on Interstate-35 and U.S. 79.
Seguin (population 25,090): Mayor Betty Ann Matthies received $7,775 and spent $6,214 in her first successful bid in 2004, which was the city’s last contested mayoral race. Seguin is home to Texas Lutheran University, located 36 miles east of San Antonio on Interstate-10.