Ask City Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria how he got into Austin politics, and he’ll proudly describe getting out the votes for the Dell Medical School when he was given just $3,000 to cover a quarter of the county.
When he decided to run a few years later for City Council, he loaned himself $1,000 to begin a campaign, but knocking on doors was always more important than fundraising, he said. He ended up in a runoff against his sister and both took a public financing option that gave them $24,000 each for the last leg of the campaign.
In a city where the mayor raised $1 million, was that enough?
“Oh my goodness,” Renteria said. “I didn’t even spend all of it.”
A proposed public finance system would target political races like the ones in Renteria’s East Austin District 3 by sending vouchers to voters to give to the candidates of their choice.