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Show Me The Money: Where The CRE Dollars Are Going In The Dallas Mayor's Race

With the election for Dallas mayor scheduled for May 4, candidates are counting their final streams of cash — some of which comes directly from the hands of heavy hitters in commercial real estate. 

Dallas skyline

Miguel Solis 

Candidate Miguel Solis is promoting his experience as a board member for the Dallas Independent School District to secure the confidence of voters in the 2019 Dallas mayor’s race. Despite a background more focused on education, the candidate secured the following high-profile contributions from members of the CRE industry:

  • The children and in-laws of legendary Trammell Crow made a few appearances.
    • An address listed for a donor named Kathy Crow — located at 4700 Preston Road — is associated with Kathy Crow and Harlan Crow
    • Billingsley Co.’s Henry Billingsley is listed as a donor for Solis. Billingsley also appears as a donor for candidate Lynn McBee, among others.
    • George Billingsley, a partner with the Billingsley Co., also is listed as a Solis contributor.
  • An address on file for a Solis donor and the name associated with it — Tim Byrne — is none other than Tim Byrne, president and CEO of Lincoln Property Co.'s residential division. 

  • Two other big names on the donor list are Garrett Boone and John Matthews. While Bisnow was unable to tie the addresses of these two donors to specific individuals or companies, the Dallas Morning News reported Boone is the co-founder of The Container Store and John Matthews is real estate developer John Matthews.

Solis reported receiving $415K in contributions in Q1 2019; after expenditures, he has $265K left from all his donations to date.


Mike Ablon 

Mike Ablon, a founding partner of commercial real estate development and investment firm PegausAblon, unsurprisingly raised money in the commercial real estate space.

The latest 2019 finance report shows Ablon documented donations from the following individuals: 

  • Development-focused family Henry Billingsley and Sumner Billingsley are listed as donors in Ablon’s April 2019 filing. Both of these individuals are associated with the Trammell Crow family and are executives at development firm Billingsley & Co. 

At the end of 2018, Ablon also received donations from the following players in the investment and real estate community: 

  • Dary Stone, who serves on the board of directors for Cousins Properties and as CEO of R.D. Stones Interests. 

  • Developer and investor Shawn Todd of Todd Interests.  

  • An address associated with commercial real estate firm Carlisle Interests appears in Ablon’s 2018 campaign finance report.

  • A "Thomas Hicks" donor for Ablon is listed as coming from the same address as Hicks Equity Partners, a private equity division associated with investor Tom Hicks. D Magazine also named Tom Hicks as one of Ablon's top donors. 

  • Two CRE-related PACs are listed as Ablon pledgers or donors: the Hotel PAC of Texas Hotel & Lodging Association and the Political Action Committee of Pacheco Koch.

  • Another address on file for a donor or pledger named Randy Heady comes from the same address as Heady Investments, a real estate development company. 

His total Q1 donations were $340K, and he said he has spent $707K to date, leaving him $57K from all donations.


Regina Montoya  

Regina Montoya, an attorney who served as an aide to President Bill Clinton, has the backing of a few big names in the space.

  • Donation rolls from late 2018 show Craig Hall and his wife, Kathy Hall, donated to Montoya’s campaign. Craig is a commercial real estate legend, having developed Hall Park in Frisco among numerous other office and real estate developments nationwide. Kathy is well-known in her own right and worked for Clinton an ambassador to Austria. (Montoya's Clinton ties don't end there. Hillary Clinton has publicly endorsed Montoya.)

  • The Hotel PAC of THLA also made a contribution or pledge to Montoya.

  • Margot Perot on Strait Lane in Dallas, the wife of Ross Perot, is listed as a donor. 

  • Montoya's records also list Frank Mihalopoulos as a donor. The address for Mihalopoulos matches that of CRE sales, leasing and development firm ATR Corinth Partners. 

She received $332K in donations in 2019, and has $151K left from total contribution money.


Jason Villalba 

Former Republican Texas state Rep. Jason Villalba, who is an attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP, received dollars from law firms throughout his hometown of Dallas and the George P. Bush Campaign, plus some companies and people in property:

  • The Hotel PAC of THLA.
  • The Associa PAC, which shares the same address as property management firm Associa, which specializes in association management for mixed-use, multifamily and condo developments.
    • Villalba also received an individual donation from the same address from Associa CEO and Chairman John Carona. 

Villalba received $25K in donations in Q1, and reported having $17K left over after expenses.


Albert Black 

Businessman and candidate Albert Black appears weak on commercial real estate donors, although he did receive some hefty donations from legal and business entities, including an address associated with Mike Boone of famed local law firm Haynes and Boone. The Dallas Morning News also tied Black to donations from former energy CEOs Erle Nye and Jerry Farrington, as well as American Leather founder Bob Duncan. All told, he received $112K in donations so far this year, and after expenses, he has $25K left of his total contributions.


Scott Griggs 

Scott Griggs is a current member of City Council, representing the Oak Cliff community of Dallas. Griggs entered the race in 2019 and filed his first campaign finance report this past week. Although Griggs reported many individual donors, no major names in commercial real estate appeared on the face of the report. In Q1, he received $224K in donations and spent $97K. Griggs has $109K left of his total contributions.


Eric Johnson 

Texas state Rep. Eric Johnson, a Democrat, nabbed big name donors, and received PAC money from telecommunications-, energy- and defense-related sources, including AT&T PAC and the Raytheon PAC. Within CRE, he received donations from:

  • Billingsley Co.'s Henry Billingsley. 
  • Numerous individuals associated with the Hunt family, including Hunt Consolidated Executive Chairman Ray Hunt, Hunter Hunt and Nancy Hunt. 

The Dallas Observer did a who’s who of the business and political elites who have been giving money and/or endorsements to the Johnson campaign. 

Johnson reported the most Q1 contributions of any candidate: $524K. Taking expenses out of his total donations to date, he has $838K remaining.


Lynn McBee 

Lynn McBee spent her career as a research scientist at New England Biolabs. The candidate also is known for her philanthropy with a focus on combating homelessness and issues impacting education, particularly in the STEM fields. 

McBee also has received the backing of prominent commercial real estate developers. 

Not only is Billingsley & Co.’s Henry Billingsley a donor, but news reports show Trammell Crow descendant and Billingsley & Co. partner Lucy Billingsley is also a supporter. D Magazine reports that Trammell S. Crow, another Trammell Crow heir, reportedly held a fundraiser for McBee. 

McBee’s filings with the city also show a contribution from Billingsley Development Co. President Lucilo Pena.

She received $375K in contributions in Q1 2019, and she reported that after all expenditures, she has $680K left in contribution funds.


Alyson Kennedy  

A finance report for self-described socialist candidate Alyson Kennedy could not be found by press time.

CORRECTION, APRIL 9, 2:00 P.M. CT: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated candidate Scott Griggs did not report cash on hand at the time of filing. That correction has been made and Griggs’ cash on hand has been included.

CORRECTION, APRIL 9, 6:00 P.M. CT: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the title of Tim Byrne, CEO and president of Lincoln Property’s Residential Division. The title has been updated.