Special interest groups pour nearly $60,000 in EPISD races ahead of Saturday elections

El Paso News

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Elections deciding the fate of four seats on the El Paso Independent School District school board are nearly complete and special interest groups are pouring in money to back their preferred candidates.

EPISD candidates in races for Districts 1, 3, 4 and 5 reported a total of $72,281 in donations and in-kind contributions from supporters. A majority of the money reported in 8-day campaign finance reports covering March 23 to April 21 came from political action committees (PACs), according to the documents.

In total, special groups/PACs — The El Paso Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel C.O.P.E., Kids First PAC and Texas AFT Committee on Political Education — brought in $57,229. Those PACs were the major contributors reported in the documents.

Contributions reported by EPISD candidates indicate the El Paso Federation of Teachers group and Texas AFT committee support the same individuals and the Kids First PAC has shown which candidates they support.

Totals in races for District 4 and 5 do not completely reflect what amount of money is influencing the contests because the EPISD website does not show reports for all candidates. Reports for incumbent Diane Dye, Fainot Pierre, Claudia Soto and former Congressional candidate Jerome Tilghman are missing.

Data provided by the El Paso County Elections Department shows only 2.2 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots during the early voting period for the May 1 elections. Countywide, there are school board and municipal elections scheduled for Saturday.

PAC Money

The El Paso Federation of Teachers group and Texas AFT committee provided monetary and in-kind contributions to EPISD candidates for support purchasing printed materials and ads, according to reports.

In total, the groups provided a combined $31,866 to specific candidates they both appear to support. The funds went to candidates Josh Acevedo, Vanessa Betts, Betty Ann Halliburton and Leah Hanany,

Donations from the groups appear to offset money provided to the Kids First PAC, which reported $25,363 in-kind donations to Leslie Hoard, Isabel Hernandez, Israel Irrobali and Jennie Tipton Lasley.

Contributions from the Kids First PAC have proven to be controversial in the races because of where funding came from. El Paso businessmen and charter school advocates have poured money into the PAC. Several board directors of the Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development have contributed more than $60,000 to the PAC.

District 1

There are three candidates in the District 1 race. It covers the Westside, downtown, Segundo Barrio and Chamizal communities.

The race is between Arturo Dominguez, Leah Hanany and Jennie Tipton Lasley. They are looking to replace board president Bob Geske, who is not running for re-election.

In total, the candidates reported receiving $23,013 and $4,049 in expenses, according to finance reports.

Dominguez reported $2,060 in contributions and $4,049 in expenses. Most donations coming from family and loans. His expenses detail purchases for printed materials, advertising and wages.

Hanany reported $13,918 in contributions both monetary and in-kind in her report. She also listed $3,154 in expenses for literature.

Notable contributions to Hanany came from two donations worth $5,000 from The El Paso Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel C.O.P.E. and $7,278 in-kind donations from the Texas AFT committee. The Austin-based PAC donation covered literature and canvassing.

Lasley reported $7,035 in contributions both monetary and in-kind contributions. She also reported $8,300 worth of expenditures.

Most notable in-kind contributions came from a combined $6,285 from the Kids First PAC to pay for mailers, phone banking, canvassing and graphic design.

District 3

There are three candidates in the District 3 race, which covers Central El Paso and parts of the Northeast.

The race is between incumbent Josh Acevedo, Rene Fierro and Leslie Hoard. The candidates have brought in a total $25,095 in contributions and $4,634 in expenses.

Acevedo reported $15,587 in monetary and in-kind donations. He received $5,000 from the El Paso Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel C.O.P.E. and $500 from the Frontera Vision PAC. He also received $6,276 in-kind donations from the Texas AFT PAC for printed materials, mail, digital ads and phone service.

Rene Fierro reported $852 in contributions and $1,011 expenses.

Leslie Hoard accounted for $8,656 in monetary and in-kind contributions from the Kids First PAC. She received $7,416 in-kind donations for text messaging, mailers, graphic design and photos.

District 4

There are six candidates in the District 4 race. Five individuals are challenging incumbent Diane Dye for the seat that represents a portion of Northeast El Paso.

The race includes Betty Ann Halliburton, Isabel Hernandez, Fainot Pierre, Claudia Soto and Frances De Santos Whitaker.

EPISD’s website does not show reports for Dye, Pierre and Soto. From available information, candidates brought in $10,799 and $1,304 in expenses.

Betty Ann Halliburton reported $5,047 in monetary and in-kind contributions. Most notable contributions came from a $2,000 donation from the EPAFT C.O.P.E group and a $2,946 in-kind contribution for direct mail.

Isabel Hernandez accounted for $5,752 in monetary and in-kind contributions and $8 in expenses. Most notable contributions came from $5,552 from the Kids First PAC for graphic design, photos, printing, mail, canvassing and text messaging.

De Santos Whitaker did not report any contributions or expenses.

District 5

There are five candidates in the District 5 race, which covers a portion of Northeast El Paso. The race is between Vanessa Betts, Willeta I. Corbett, Stephen W. Hayes Sr., Israel Irrobali and Jerome Tilghman.

The candidates are looking to replace Chuck Taylor, who is not running for re-election. In total, the candidates raised $13,374 in contributions and $5,536 in expenses.

Vanessa Betts received $1,045 in-kind donations for digital ads from the EPAFT C.O.P.E group. And, $1,871 from the Texas AFT PAC for direct mail.

She also listed expenses for masks at an event, campaign texting and supplies.

Willeta Corbett reported $134 in contributions and $1,185 in expenses for postal services, office supplies, postage and signs.

Hayes reported $3,643 in contributions and $3,643 in expenditures for printing, mailers and a website.

Irrobali reported $6,341 in monetary and in-kind contributions along with $1,185 in expenditures for postal services, office supplies, postage and signs.

He received a $6,110 in-kind donation from the Kids First PAC for printing, graphic design, canvassing, texting and photography.

Tilghman’s report is missing from the EPISD website.

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