There are 14 candidates vying for the District C seat on the Houston City Council. Eleven of them participated in a public forum last week in Garden Oaks, where they talked about themselves and the key issues facing one of the most dynamic parts of the city.
Afterward, multiple attendees said they felt good about their options for District C, where Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen is approaching her term limit. They just weren’t sure which options were better than the others.
“I don’t think there’s a frontrunner yet,” Garden Oaks resident Erik Wipf said. “I think it’s a wide-open race.”
Less than a month before the Nov. 5 municipal election, many District C voters might be undecided. But in terms of fundraising, one candidate has a decided advantage over the others.
Abbie Kamin, a civil rights attorney and Heights-area resident who is running for public office for the first time, had a contribution balance of nearly $178,000 according to a campaign finance report filed with the city on Monday. The candidate with the next-highest balance, Greg Meyers, reported a total of less than $37,000.
“I’m very proud of the campaign that I’m running and the positive feedback that we’re getting from neighborhoods across the district,” Kamin said. “We have very broad support. We have families, we have business people, community leaders, neighborhoods, flood victims, teachers.”
While a large number of Kamin’s campaign donors are Houston-based – her reports show Cohen made a small contribution in July – she has received money from donors all across the United States. That could be at least in part because of her campaign’s utilization of ActBlue, an online fundraising platform that connects donors with Democrats, progressive groups and nonprofits. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign used ActBlue, as did Beto O’Rourke’s campaign in his 2018 bid for the U.S. Senate.
City council races are non-partisan, and Kamin said potholes that need to be fixed are neither red nor blue. And while declining to discuss her campaign donors specifically, she said the majority of her support has been local to Houston.
Kamin also kept her plans close to the vest when asked how she intended to spend the money she’s raised during the stretch run of the race.
“We’re going to be trying to speak to as many residents around District C as possible.”
Helen Sestak, who attended last week’s candidate forum hosted by Super Neighborhood 12 and the Garden Oaks Civic Club, said afterward that Kamin, Meyers, Candelario Cervantez and Garden Oaks resident Shelley Kennedy were candidates she likes. Meyers, the former president of the Houston ISD Board of Education, touted that experience as well as his fiscal acumen.
Kennedy is a longtime community activist who counts former Houston mayor Annise Parker among her endorsements. Kennedy and Cervantez, who has a background in education, the arts and nonprofits, both have contribution balances of more than $10,000, according to their latest campaign finance reports.
Mary Jane Smith, a retired businesswoman with endorsements from Jack Cagle and Steve Radack, the two Republicans on the Harris County Commissioners Court, is third in fundraising behind Kamin and Meyers with a contribution balance of more than $30,000. Fiscal responsibility is among the selling points of her campaign, and she joined Meyers and fellow candidates Sean Marshall, Bob Nowak and Daphne Scarbrough in saying she opposes METRO’s bond referendum to expand its public transit services.
Nowak, the city’s webmaster, is in the middle of the pack in terms of fundraising but promotes his experience and connections within the municipal government.
“The 311 director is my lunch buddy,” he quipped during the Garden Oaks candidate forum.
The forum also included Michelle Ganz, Rodney Hill and Gladys House, who trail their fellow candidates in fundraising. But according to Timbergrove Manor resident Bob Choate, who attended, they all bring important perspectives to the campaign.
Along with Meyers and Smith, Choate cited Ganz, a former pipefitter who lives in Montrose, and Hill, a retired police officer, as making good impressions on him. He said both candidates, while not the most politically savvy, have real-life experiences and offer practical solutions to the city’s problems.
“I wish we could put all 11 of them on city council,” Choate said. “They all bring different perspectives, they all bring passion, they all bring ideas, and I could see this whole group working together. A couple very sophisticated candidates, a couple less sophisticated candidates, but by gum, that’s what we need.”
Based on campaign finance reports filed with the City of Houston, candidates for Houston City Council District C had the following contribution balances as of Monday:
Abbie Kamin – $177,882.04
Greg Meyers – $36,729.93
Mary Jane Smith – $30,175.00
Shelley Kennedy – $12,056.49
Candelario Cervantez – $10,564.74
Bob Nowak – $4,871.67
Sean Marshall – $2,527.89
Amanda Wolfe – $1,238.18
Kevin Walker – $313.94
Michelle Ganz – $90.00
Rodney Hill – $0
Gladys House – $0
Daphne Scarbrough – Did not report