AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a city attempt to strip outside money from local politics.

In terms of runoffs — Austin’s Fair Campaign Contract, started in 2008, frees up funding to candidates should they refrain from taking significant donations from out-of-city and outside interest groups during their initial run for office.

But two city council candidates say the clerk misrepresented the deadline to sign the contract.
It means Ryan Alter, running for District 5, and José Velásquez, in District 3, won’t get a portion of the pot this Dec. election, despite signing the contract and taking the issue to a judge earlier this week.

A Travis County judge shot their motion down Monday.

“We disagreed, we relied on what they had told us and don’t think it’s fair to change the rules at the last minute but here we are,” Alter, an attorney who represented the two, said.

The City of Austin said it’s just following city code — which means only Daniela Silva, running against Velásquez in District 3, and Linda Guerrero, running for District 9, are eligible to get equal shares of the more than $66,000 available in the fund. They’re the only ones who signed the contract, and on time, the city said.

“Just over $16,000 is how much was in question, and so we’ll be able to be successful without it but it would have helped reach some of those harder to reach individuals that now we’re going to have to work a little harder,” Alter said.

“We’ve received the lawsuit and the City prevailed yesterday in the Temporary Restraining Order hearing. The City will be following City Code as it relates to the distribution of the Austin Fair Campaign Finance Fund,” a city spokesperson responded.

The back-and-forth could, however, mean changes moving forward. Alter points out, as the rules are established in this case, an incumbent would have to sign the contract a term in advance of a runoff.

“We should want everyone to participate in the fair campaign contract, but if you had to sign it 30 days from when you first filed for treasurer, that could have been four years ago if you are an incumbent and you could never participate,” Alter said.

The City of Austin said they heard the concerns of the candidates and that “the city’s law department and clerk’s office will be working with council to clarify section 2-2 of city code relating to campaign finance going forward.”

Alter is running against Stephanie Bazan in District 5. You can find candidate profiles for all of the people running in this story.