As we approach the upcoming 2019 election season, I continue to have more and more thoughts about what this election will look like. I haven’t the foggiest idea how many candidates or which candidates will run. I can’t see the future and I don’t pretend that I can. I have no clue whether Ginger Nelson, Howard Smith, Eddy Sauer or any of the incumbents will run again, although I do have some opinions. However, in all of this, I do know what one key factor in our elections will be - money.
In 2017, Ginger Nelson’s campaign was extremely expensive, and I would guess one of the most expensive mayoral campaigns in Amarillo’s history, although I do not know that for sure. I do know that Howard Smith’s campaign was one of the most expensive in the entire state for a realtor-supported PAC, which spent generously on behalf of his election. In both of these races, the winning candidates and their allies spent insane amounts of money, while their opponents spent next to nothing.
What does that mean? Groups like Amarillo Matters, which serve as protectors of political interest funded by very small groups of individuals, were successful in buying the 2017 elections. And you better believe Amarillo Matters and its allies will be back in 2019 with a blank checks ready for whatever establishment candidates step up ready to do the bidding for donors.
Money will be ever-present in 2019. This will likely be the case for those who are not on the establishment side, as well. I have heard rumors of possible candidates who will likely try to raise and spend heavily for their campaigns.
With every intention of throwing tons of bucks at the upcoming elections, candidates and committees will hope to distract you. The best thing voters can do during all of this is not get blinded by the money, and instead focus on the real issues and records of the candidates running.
For example, based on financial reports, it appears Mayor Ginger Nelson had some type of fundraiser earlier this year for her campaign at the Amarillo Country Club. Nelson brought in some big bucks during that event and, if she runs again, will hope that money can be used to convince you to re-elect her.
Instead of blindly being dazzled by the cash the candidates are likely to throw at this election, remember their records. In the case of Nelson, remember the City’s poor responses to issues like animal management and the homeless. Remember citizens being taken out of City Hall in handcuffs. Remember dogs being euthanized while in labor. Remember the things that have actually been going on behind closed doors over the past year or so.
But, at the same time, don’t blindly support challengers either. Look at the challengers’ stances on issues and their records if they have them. Find out if the challengers have voted to raise your taxes. Find out if the challengers have been involved in unethical government dealings. Find out who the challengers associate themselves with. Find out who the candidates are using to finance their campaigns. You can learn a lot about a candidate if you are willing to look to beyond the shiny surface.
So, this campaign is likely to see record spending, no matter who runs. I expect a hearty and diverse field. I expect to see a real exchange of issues. But, I can’t even begin to guess who runs.
No matter who will be on the ballot, please keep your eyes on the issues. Vote for the individual who you feel most comfortable letting managing your city and your tax dollars for the next two years. Don’t be fooled by the big money and big personalities. Look beyond, and find the truth about the candidates.
Amarillo is counting on you.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief