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Published Sunday, April 13, 2008 2:13 AM

Council hopefuls disclose funding

Six College Station City Council candidates have collectively raised more than $32,000 to boost their campaigns, according to paperwork filed last week with the Texas Ethics Commission.

It's a different game in Bryan, where incumbent Mayor Pro Tem Jason Bienski has raised just $500, and his opponent, Kevin Davenport, has not accepted any contributions.

College Station hopeful Derek Dictson added the most to his war chest, raising about $7,570. Dictson's opponent, incumbent Councilman John Crompton, raised $5,225 during a filing period that ended March 31.

College Station's mayor pro tem, Ron Gay, raised $6,300 for his campaign, while challenger Dennis Maloney raised $4,965.

Place 5 incumbent Chris Scotti raised $5,690, while his opponent, Larry Stewart, raised $2,679.

The three biggest fundraisers -- Dictson, Gay and Scotti -- received contributions from several common supporters. Real estate investor Hunter Goodwin, builder Randy French, attorney Larry Haskins and developer Jack Culpepper contributed to the campaigns of all three hopefuls. University Title CEO Celia Goode-Haddock backed Dictson and Scotti. Real estate broker Casey Oldham supported Gay and Dictson.

"I think there is some similarity to our message," Gay said Friday. "People view us as pro-growth, pro-business, and that's why they're giving to us."

Candidates Crompton, Maloney and Stewart also have some common supporters. Tax preparer Phillip Gibson, retired Texas A&M University professor Richard Startzman, contractor Hugh Stearns and Texas A&M professor Doug Phillips contributed to all three campaigns.

"It's pretty clear-cut," said Maloney, who characterized himself, Crompton and Stewart as the election's underdogs. "You look at every real estate office in town and see our opponents' signs. We have links to neighborhoods, not any special-interest group. This is a pivotal race for College Station, and I think it's going to be hard as the dickens for us to pull it off."

Maloney has spent more than $1,100 on signs and mail pieces.

His opponent, Gay, has spent about $3,200 on his campaign to date.

Gay said Friday that while there's an advantage to being the incumbent, it's important to advertise and remind voters that there's an election May 10.

"This is a marketing job, and I'm a marketing guy," said Gay, who works for Scott & White Health Plan. "It's expensive to get the word out. One reason why we spend so much is we run citywide, and in Bryan [where council seats are designated by geographic districts], they only have to get their message out in a limited area."

Dictson, the biggest spender so far, has shelled out more than $8,000 on his campaign, for buttons, business cards, a Web site, voter registration lists and signs.

"I've been working on trying to reach out to as many different groups and individuals as I can," he said. "I've been talking to people since the beginning of the year. I'm not a well-known entity in this community, so I've got to get my message out."

Crompton has spent just a fraction of what his opponent paid for campaign materials, recording expenditures of roughly $700.

But big spending doesn't always guarantee a win. Crompton defeated John Happ for the Place 1 seat last year even though Happ raised more money.

"You do it with sweat equity," Crompton said Friday. "We will work very hard, walking the neighborhoods, getting out our message. I've been an activist for over 30 years, and I've got a long track record of neighborhood integrity and preserving the general well-being of the community. My opponent does not have that. I'm hoping that people will look at my years of service."

Crompton said the pro-development candidates are bringing in more money because their supporters have a financial stake in who wins the election.

"The issue here is really the motives of the people who are giving," he said. "Some of the development community have been uncomfortable with some of the things I have done this year because I eroded some of the subsidies they were receiving, or have tried to. My position is that growth should pay for itself. Those of us on the other side really have no financial incentive to be engaged in this."

Dictson said College Station voters have an opportunity to decide between candidates who exhibit stark differences in the way they approach public service.

"When you look at the six candidates who are running, the differences are real clear," he said. "The people who are going to support me are more likely to support [Gay and Scotti]. It's just kind of the basic philosophy of the role of government and formation of good public policy. Especially in my race, Dr. Crompton and I have different views about the proper role of government. That gives people a choice."

The candidate who has spent the least on his campaign is Stewart. The Place 5 hopeful has paid about $514 on a campaign event and a Web site. His opponent, Scotti, has spent about $2,690 on advertising and food for a fundraiser.

The spending -- and fundraising -- is significantly higher in College Station than in Bryan, where just one race is contested.

Mayor Pro Tem Bienski is seeking another three-year term against political newcomer Davenport. On the campaign trail, Bienski has accepted $200 from Justice of the Peace Tommy Munoz and $50 from fellow Councilman Paul Madison. Another $250 came in contributions of less than $50. The candidate has spent $750 on campaign materials.

Davenport, who has spent $300 on campaign items, has not collected any money for his campaign.

The figures represent just the first round of campaign fundraising and spending. Candidates are required to file a second series of reports May 2.

‚€Ę April Avison's e-mail address is april.avison@theeagle.com.





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