News Column

Vela Turns Tables, Outspends Republican

Nov. 2, 2012

Emma Perez-Trevino

The Democratic Party nominee in the race for the U.S. congressional District 34 seat has spent nearly 13 to 1 compared to the Republican Party nominee as fundraising and spending toward the Nov. 6 general election continues, while the Libertarian Party candidate has not expended any funds, public records show.

From the start of the campaign for the office and as of Oct. 17, Democrat Filemon Vela has spent $686,138 on the race while Republican Jessica Puente Bradshaw has expended $50,895. Libertarian Steven "Ziggy" Shanklin said he doesn't believe in asking for money, and has been running his campaign via social media.

The job pays about $174,000 a year.

For the first time, the new U.S. congressional District 34, anchored in Cameron County, will be on the general election ballot, the third election for this race. The first election was the primaries, followed by run-off elections, and now the final bid on Nov. 6.

Records on file with the Federal Election Commission reflect that while Vela has spent $686,138, he has received $475,247 in contributions plus he has injected $290,000 of his own money into the race, thus total receipts of $765,282.

On the amount of money spent through Oct. 17, Vela said that, "this campaign has consisted of three separate elections and the average cost of each has been about $250,000."

Vela added that the cost of reaching out to more than 700,000 people in the 11 counties within the new district, which stretches from the border to near San Antonio, "has been expensive."

"However, this is a lot less than what is being spent in the current race for congressional District 23 between candidates Pete Gallego and Quico Canseco whom have each spent about $2 million on one election," Vela said.

FEC records also show that while Puente Bradshaw has spent $50,895 on the race through Oct. 17, she has received $79,018 and has injected $16,000 of her personal funds into the race, for total receipts of $95,018.

Puente Bradshaw said that she believes she is the candidate that has raised the most from individual contributors. She said her contributions "come from a diverse group of people and every dollar that we spend, we spend it very wisely, which is how I would spend taxpayers' dollars."

Puente Bradshaw said that getting the message out takes time and energy. "That is what I've done; a lot of handshaking, knocking on doors, saying hello, attending forums, listening and meetings. That doesn't require money, and that is what people want," she said.

She also pointed out that money pays for everything, but not for someone's presence. Puente Bradshaw said that of four candidate forums that have been held, Vela has only attended two.

Her campaign also recently announced that Democratic Party primary candidate for District 34 Elmo Aycock has endorsed her candidacy.

Shanklin, who has not filed any reports of campaign statements or receipts and disbursements with the FEC, said he opted to run his campaign via social media because, "advertising is a waste of money." He said the amount of money Vela has spent on the race is "atrocious."

Noting that the amount raised and spent by Vela is more money than the public office pays in about four years combined, Shanklin said that Vela owes someone something. "That much money is buying the election," Shanklin said.

"The only people that will own me will be the voters," he maintained.

Vela has received campaign contributions from lawyers, lobbyists, political action committees, interest groups and individuals. Asked if there are some contributions that he would not accept, Vela said: "I have received a broad range of support from individuals, businesses and working interests. My campaign has followed and will continue to adhere to Federal Election Commission guidelines with respect to any contributions."

And insofar as allegations that he is buying the election, Vela said: "I have maintained a very positive campaign and will continue do so. The people I owe are the citizens of the district, and what I owe them is to do the best job I can representing them in Washington."

As of Oct. 17, Vela had $79,144 cash on hand while Puente Bradshaw had $40,972.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas)

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