Incumbent candidate fails to disclose campaign finances

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

July 26, 2014 at 2:26 a.m.
Updated July 27, 2014 at 2:27 a.m.

Victoria County's general election is still months away, but candidates already are racking up major donations for November.

For local elections, the financial report money trail can help voters decide which candidates to support on Election Day.

In the most recent round of financial disclosures, all but one candidate in the contested Victoria County races showed donors have contributed $55,520 to the political cause, and 31 high-dollar donations exceeded $500.

The incumbent candidate for Victoria County district clerk, Cathy Stuart, failed to disclose the donors and expenses supporting her campaign.

Stuart, a Republican who has held office since 2002, said she did not file because she had not received any financial contributions. She said her only expense was $750 for the filing fee.

"I don't have any funds to claim," she said. "I was going to start raising campaign funds this next month."

Stuart's opponent, Jane Bernal, has not received any contributions during the most recent filing period but met the reporting deadline to declare her finances.

"I'm a stickler about following the rules ... it is shocking that she (Stuart) hasn't," Bernal said.

A Victoria furniture salesman has been the biggest contributor to this election season, throwing his support behind Bernal and the county's three other Democratic Party candidates.

Allan Maresh, owner of The Homestead, contributed $2,500 to Bernal in January as well as to Robert Cortez, the incumbent for county clerk; Jennifer Foster, for county treasurer, and Ron Reyna, for county judge.

Maresh declined to comment.

Bernal said the $2,500 contribution Maresh made in January was a surprise. To date, it is her only contribution.

"It's people's hard-earned money," she said. "When they're willing to make a contribution of that amount, I feel it comes from their heart."

Ben Zeller, the Republican for county judge, is depositing the most donations of any candidate.

Since he began raising funds in January, Zeller has deposited $28,240 and spent $36,367, according to campaign finance reports. A personal loan of $15,000 helped cover his campaign costs for the Republican primary election he won against incumbent Don Pozzi.

Of the 31 high-dollar donations for the county's four contested races, Zeller has received 17 large checks. His biggest financial backers are Janet Miller of JSM Natural Resources and Dr. Ajay Gaalla, a cardiology specialist, who both contributed $1,250, according to campaign finance reports.

His opponent, Reyna, has collected $2,500 and spent $7,008, according to campaign finance reports.

Reyna has $24,701 in loans for his campaign.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election is Oct. 6.

Photo ID is currently required for voting in-person. Qualified voters without an approved photo ID can obtain a free election identification card from the Department of Public Safety.



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