As candidate signs begin to pop up across the landscape and mailboxes are flooded with political literature, it is obvious that an election is in full swing. What is often less well-known is where the candidates’ money is coming from and why.
Civil engineering firms and contractors who do business with local governments are among the most prolific contributors to local candidates. Unsurprisingly, these same contractors and firms are often awarded multimillion-dollar contracts by the very same local politicians whose campaigns they financed.
The race for Montgomery County Commissioner Precinct 1, a hotly contested open seat after the retirement of incumbent Mike Meador, is no exception. Contractors appear to have found their man, and they are pouring money into one candidate: Meador’s cousin, Robert Walker.
In the last campaign finance reporting period, covering July through December of 2019, Walker raised a total of $40,035. He spent $40,633 and still has $75,496 cash on hand as of the end of the reporting period.
Some of Walker’s largest donors include engineering firms and contractors:
Jones and Carter PAC: $1,500
Jeff Cannon (LJA Engineering): $1,500 in-kind contribution
Raba Kistner PAC: $1,500
The Blair Law Firm: $1,000
Topstar Construction: $900
Whitney Associates DBA: $750
Ranney McDonough (McDonough Engineering): $500
Costello PAC: $300
Halff Associates: $300
Some of the more noteworthy donors include the Raba Kirstner PAC, which is based in San Antonio; Jones and Carter PAC, which is affiliated with the eponymous engineering firm that does extensive business with Montgomery County; and Halff Associates, the firm that was given the contract to build the SH 249 toll road.
The Blair Law Firm’s contribution is also notable, as it is run by Nelda Blair, an attorney in The Woodlands. Her husband, Jim Blair, was a founder of Linebarger Goggan Blair and Sampson, one of the largest government debt collection law firms in the state. Blair has been very involved in funding and promoting various government bonds.
Walker spent $7,300 on consulting fees to Southern Heritage Consulting, which is run by Kristin Christ, Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley’s campaign manager. He also listed $2,425 in expenditures for “speech coaching.”
Walker donated campaign money to several local organizations, including a $600 contribution to the Conroe firefighter union on July 24, 2019. The union later endorsed Walker.
The other candidate running for Precinct 1 Commissioner, Billy Graff, raised significantly less than Walker, and none of the money raised came from engineering firms or contractors. In the last reporting period, Graff raised a total of $14,050 and spent a total of $18,057. He had $7,290 cash on hand remaining when the report was filed.
Graff’s largest donor was his son, Josh Graff, who donated $9,000 to his campaign. Graff also loaned his campaign $5,000, and Gerry Barnes of Lumberton contributed $1,250. The rest of Graff’s funds came from small donors.
Graff’s campaign hired two consultants, spending $3,028 in consulting fees to New Braunfels-based Macias Strategies LLC, run by political consultant Luke Macias. Graff also paid $3,446 to local political consultant Bob Coats, who is a Republican precinct chair and area chair for Montgomery.
Whoever wins the Republican primary is almost certain to win in this heavily Republican precinct. Early voting in the primary runs from February 18 to February 28. Election Day is March 3.
Information on voting locations can be found here.