Five takeaways from third-quarter fundraising reports in Texas’ congressional races; Van Duyne strong in fundraising

October 16, 2019

Tuesday was the latest quarterly campaign finance deadline for congressional candidates, and there was plenty to dissect in Texas, an increasingly important state in the fight for the House majority.

Even before a recent string of Republican retirements, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was targeting six GOP-held seats in the state. Three of those seats are now open.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, meanwhile, is hoping to take back two seats the GOP lost last cycle, targeting Reps. Colin Allred of Dallas and Lizzie Fletcher of Houston.

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Other races are not expected to be competitive in November but are drawing considerable interest for one reason or another. They include open seats in solidly Republican districts, where crowded primaries are expected, as well as a pair of notable primary challenges.

Here’s what we learned from the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission, which covered the last three months.

Two Republican incumbents were out-raised.

Republican Reps. Chip Roy of Austin and Ron Wright of Fort Worth saw their Democratic challengers raise more than them. It was most pronounced in the case of Roy, a DCCC target who drew a high-profile opponent, Wendy Davis, in late July. Davis, the former Fort Worth state senator and 2014 gubernatorial nominee, raised a massive $941,000 to Roy’s $574,000 — a significant increase over what he raised in the prior quarter but not enough to overcome Davis.

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Wright, who is not a DCCC target, took in $106,000, while his challenger, Waxahachie attorney Stephen Daniel, edged him out with a $111,000 haul after starting his campaign in early July. Roy and Wright still maintained healthy cash-on-hand advantages; for Roy, it was $1.1 million to Davis’ $604,000.

The NRCC’s targets are staying ahead of their well-funded challengers.

Allred and Fletcher have both drawn well-funded GOP opponents — but the incumbent Democrats are not letting themselves fall behind. One of Allred’s challengers, Dallas businesswoman Genevieve Collins, hauled in $453,000 in contributions after declaring her candidacy in late July, an impressive debut establishing her as the candidate to beat in the primary. Allred reported $583,000 in receipts for the full three months.

The situation was the same in Fletcher’s race, where her leading GOP challenger, Houston Army veteran Wesley Hunt, had another strong quarter relative to his primary rivals, raising $469,000, while Fletcher outpaced him with a $640,000 haul. Most importantly, though, the cash-on-hand totals for both Allred and Fletcher reached new highs since their 2018 campaigns — $1.5 million and $1.4 million, respectively.

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In competitive open seats, there was a new state of play.

The third quarter saw several Republican retirements, including in the three seats that were already in the DCCC’s crosshairs. That means GOP candidates are starting from scratch in those races, while Democrats have been able to further widen their financial advantages. That was on stark display in the contest to replace retiring Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, where Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones raked in $1.1 million. Republican Tony Gonzales, who jumped into the race shortly after Hurd announced his retirement in early August, disclosed $152,000 in receipts, $65,000 of which was a loan to himself.

The GOP had some brighter spots in the contests to fill the seats of retiring Reps. Kenny Marchant of Coppell and Pete Olson of Sugar Land. In Marchant’s district, for example, GOP candidate Beth Van Duyne, the former mayor of Irving, jumped in the race the day after he announced his retirement in early August and hauled in $347,000, more than any Democratic contender did for the full period.

Honorable mention: The other open seats are in safely Republican territory, though there was still some notable fundraising by candidates readying for packed primaries — or hoping to prevent them. In the race to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, one GOP hopeful, August Pfluger, reported raising $705,000 in 19 days, a staggering amount for a quarter, let alone for about two and a half weeks.

Keep an eye on a couple of primary challengers.

At least two primary challengers disclosed figures that may make them hard to dismiss. Jessica Cisneros, who is running against Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, raised $318,000, not too far behind his $377,000 — and almost all made up of individual contributions, unlike his PAC-heavy report. Still, Cuellar remains a daunting target — at $3.2 million, his war chest is the one of the biggest in the Texas delegation.

Another primary challenger to watch is Chris Putnam, who is opposing Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth. He got $206,000 in contributions to her $284,000, but he also loaned himself a quarter-million dollars, allowing him to show $448,000 cash on hand to her $563,000.

Things are still TBD in the 31st District.

Among the DCCC’s targets is Rep. John Carter of Round Rock, though the Democratic primary for the seat appears to remain unsettled and underfunded. Three candidates have dropped out in recent weeks, and the top fundraiser in the third quarter, Donna Imam, took in $60,000. Carter himself did not raise anything to boast about: $152,000, a drop from the second quarter that is unlikely to quell retirement speculation. Still, he has $726,000 in the bank and, for now, faces no formidable financial threats from the Democratic side.

“Five takeaways from third-quarter fundraising reports in Texas’ congressional races” was first published at by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.