Real estate investor plows big money into local candidate

Gabe Semenza

May 4, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.

A Victoria real estate investor gave the largest political contribution to any candidate in any local city council race.

James Wayne, who owns more Victoria properties than any single investor, threw his support behind a candidate who is critical of the council.

"I just think it's interesting for a man to put that much money in a little ol' city council election," Mayor Will Armstrong said. "It looks, in my opinion, like he's trying to buy an election."

Wayne showed his support of Jeff Williams by contributing $5,000 to the candidate's campaign - twice as much as any other contributor in any of the local races.

Williams challenges Tom Halepaska, the incumbent councilman in Super District 6. Halepaska and the real estate investor share an interesting history.

"Mr. Wayne has been very determined to get me off the council," Halepaska, a 60-year-old, six-year incumbent, said. "He's apparently supporting Williams to do so. I was just surprised the man went that far to try to get me out of office."

Wayne once sued Halepaska after a dispute over deed restrictions and parking issues related to adjacent property the men own on Stockbauer Drive.

Wayne lost the lawsuit and paid $7,500 for Halepaska's legal fees, Halepaska said.

"Mr. Wayne thinks if he can get one more supporter on the council, he'd have a 4-3 split," Halepaska said, declining to name the other so-called Wayne supporters. "But Wayne gave Williams a kiss of death endorsement."

Wayne declined comment for this story. The real estate investor, though, does not shy from confrontation and courtrooms.

Wayne is the complainant in 35 lawsuits pending now against the Victoria Central Appraisal District. In each lawsuit, Wayne refutes the taxable value of a property, said Clay Cain, the appraisal district's lawyer.

Williams, the city council challenger, said he only knows Wayne because he has for seven years leased property from Wayne.

"He is just one of many, many contributors," Williams, 50, said.

While both city council candidates are businessmen, Williams said Wayne supports him because the two share a similar philosophy. Williams said he is pro-business, for lower taxes and minimal government intrusion.

"Mr. Wayne has been very successful at what he's done here in town," Williams said. "Everything the council does affects him personally. He was looking for people who have similar business ideas."

Williams then criticized Halepaska. On his campaign finance records, Halepaska reports he spent only $132 so far.

Williams points to dozens of recent advertisements, signboards, fliers and more as evidence Halepaska is not being transparent - a trend the challenger said is apparent in the incumbent's six years on the council.

"My main concern I have about this whole issue is Halepaska makes decisions that involve millions of dollars, and the most simplest of financial reporting forms he can't fill out. He can't even do simple math," Williams said. "Things in public service should be done in an open and transparent way. I reported every penny I spent."

Halepaska said the bills for recent campaign expenses have yet to come due and he has yet to write checks for others. Halepaska estimates he will pay $11,000 in campaign expenses, he said.

"They'll come out in the next report," he said. "Finance reporting rules say you report what you got. That's what I have right now. He's just trying to make me look bad, but Mr. Williams, I guess, is representing a special interest that might not be in the best interest of the rest of the citizens."


Mayor Will Armstrong raised $20,800 and spent $2,800 during this year's campaign. Neither of his opponents raised or spent a dime, according to financial records provided by the city.

Armstrong, the six-year incumbent, attributed his war chest to friends and positive response from his years of public service.

Challenger Chelle Nickerson said instead of raising and spending money, she opted instead to spread her message via free social networking sites and by word of mouth.

The third candidate, Robin Holy, described himself in 1989 as mentally disabled. He did not raise or spend campaign funds, according to records.


Challenger Emett Alvarez garnered more than $6,000 in campaign finance funds the hard way.

He held a barbecue fundraiser and charged $6 a plate, he said. Each of his contributions were less than $50.

Like Williams, Alvarez said his incumbent opponent failed to fully disclose spending and contributions.

The deadline for the second campaign finance reporting period was Friday. Incumbent Joe Truman had by Friday filed only one report.

"I apologize most profusely," Truman said. "I had a medical procedure that caused a delay. The report will be in the city secretary's hands tonight."

Truman on Tuesday night filed his second report, said City Secretary Scarlet Swoboda.

Because of Truman's late filing, the Advocate has not yet reviewed the report. The newspaper will on Wednesday obtain and post online the incumbent's second filing.



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