Democratic congressional candidate Dori Fenenbock jump-started her campaign with almost $300,000 in contributions, although much of the money came from people who voted in the Republican primary in 2016, according to an El Paso Times analysis of her campaign finance report and voting records.
The analysis shows Fenenbock received about $290,000 in donations from individual contributors — about $245,000 came from El Paso, and about $45,000 from outside the county.
About 47 percent, or $136,075, of her contributions came from people who voted in the Republican primary last year, while 17 percent, or $48,600, came from people who voted in the Democratic primary, according to the analysis. About 30 percent of the contributions, about $87,250, came from people who did not participate in last year’s primary election. The Times was unable to determine primary participation for a handful of her donors.
Fenenbock’s campaign donors are a mix of family members, developers, car dealers and others, according to her report filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.
She is running for the Democratic nomination for the 16th Congressional District seat being vacated by Beto O’Rourke as he challenges incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. She is the first candidate to raise money in the race.
Christian Archer, Fenenbock’s general consultant, said her the contributions show that both Republicans and Democrats support her and consider her a leader.
“I think they look at Dori and see that she’s a leader that gets things done and they want to support a true leader,” Archer said. “One, a Democrat is going to win that congressional seat, and Dori knows how to get things done. She has shown an amazing ability to lead and get things done, and that’s why they support her.”
Fenenbock appears to have voted in a Democratic primary for the first time in 2016. She voted in Republican primaries in 2008 and 2010, and didn’t vote in either party’s primary in 2012 and 2014, according to voting records.
She and her husband, Mark, have given more than $23,000 in political contributions to state and federal candidates in the past two decades, with more than 90 percent going to Republican candidates, records show. Most of the contributions were in Mark Fenenbock’s name.
When asked whether Fenenbock is running as a Democrat because El Paso is historically a Democratic County, Archer said Fenenbock’s values line up perfectly with the Democratic Party.
“Republicans are going to swallow the fact that Dori is a Democrat and maybe she does not agree with them on all the issues, but when it comes to working and pulling people together and getting things done, I think they see that in Dori,” Archer said.
El Paso Democratic candidates frequently receive money from Republican donors, but it is unusual – if not unprecedented – for Republicans to make up the bulk of a Democrat’s donations.
For example, during County Judge Veronica Escobar’s last election in 2014, about 12 percent of her donations came from people who had voted in the previous Republican primary, according to an El Paso Times analysis.
Fenenbock is the first candidate to raise money for the March 2018 El Paso Democratic congressional primary. Escobar has said she is considering entering the Democratic primary race but has not yet announced her candidacy.
Nicole LeClaire, who lives in Houston, says she plans to move back to El Paso to seek the Democratic nomination. Lawyer Jessica Kludt Allala has said she is exploring a possible independent bid for the congressional seat.
Iliana Holguin, the El Paso Democratic Party chairwoman, said that Fenenbock is aware that she’s going to be questioned about her support from Republicans, particularly because she has voted in Republican primaries in the past.
“Those are issues that she’s going to explain to Democratic voters since she is running as a Democrat,” Holguin said. “It’s very important to us that they (candidates) believe in the Democratic Party’s values and our platform and through the primary process she’s going to have the opportunity to explain her own beliefs and how they align with the Democratic Party.”
Fenenbock’s husband, who gave her campaign the $8,100 maximum allowed by law, was among her donors who voted in the 2016 Republican primary.
“Her husband’s history of supporting the Republican party shows that she is a strong woman, can stand on her own and doesn’t need any advice from her husband,” Archer said.
State campaign finance records show that Dori Fenenbock has contributed $900 in recent years to candidates in partisan races — $600 to Republicans and $300 to Democrats. Her first contributions to Democrats came last year, records show.
Fenenbock’s campaign announced last week that she’d raised close to $350,000 between April and June, including a $50,000 loan from the candidate.
Federal law allows individuals to donate up to $2,700 per election to a candidate. In Texas, that means donors can give up to $8,100 because a candidate might have a primary election, a runoff election and a general election. Donations for runoff and general elections can’t be spent by a candidate until after a primary, and would have to be refunded to donors if the candidate doesn’t win the earlier election.
According to Fenenbock’s report, her largest cash expenditure was $5,000 to Third Coast Consulting in Eustace, Texas, run by Mark Sanders. The money was for political consulting.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Sanders created the Traditional Marriage Coalition, a political action committee, a month after the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling declaring that states could not prohibit same-sex marriages. The PAC has not raised or spent any money, records show.
Aileen B. Flores may be reached at 546-6362; email@example.com; @AileenBFlores on Twitter.
By the Numbers
Among the top donors to Dori Fenenbock’s congressional campaign are:
Paige Bowling. Randall Bowling, Robert Bowling, Mark Fenenbock, Keeli Jernigan, Douglas Schwartz, Scott Schwartz, Tania Schwartz, Dannah Meyers, Stuart Meyers, Mark Jernigan, Darren Woody.
Gerald Rubin, Harold Gernsbacher (Dallas).
Lauren Fenenbock, Laura Gordon, Pat Gordon, Jacob Heydemann, Stuart Schwartz, Judy Amstater, Blake Anderson, Ed Anderson, Nicole Anderson, Susan Anderson, Robin Furman, John Hjalmquist, Eileen Karlsruher, John Karlsruher, Ellyce Kimmelman, Clay Lowenfield, Rhonda Lowenfield, Les Parker, Robert Shiloff, Sara Shiloff, Randy Wechter, Richard Amstater, Patrick Byrne, Dawn Gopin, Michael Gopin,
Pat Lama, Yung Po Liu, David Mansfield, Gary Nadler, J. Kirk Robison, Judy Robison,
Berince Shamaley, LJ Shamaley, Nancy Shiloff, Maria Teran, Angie Yukie Liu, Manuel Rajunov (Frisco, Texas), Arthur Riklin (San Antonio), Phillip Rothstein (Frisco, Texas), Brian Weiner (San Antonio), Elysa Fenenbock (San Francisco), David Pierce (Santa Teresa), Judi Pierce (Santa Teresa), Debbie Lane (Tulsa, Okla.), Don Lane (Tulsa, Okla.).
Paul Dipp, Marci Bain, Mike Verlander, Scott Bain, Paul Malooly, Sylvia Verlander.
Cliff Eisenberg, Ann Lauterbach.