Top Texas races bring big bucks in final weeks

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Associated Press

Posted on January 16, 2014 at 5:32 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Donors gave Texas political candidates more than $39.2 million during the last half of 2013, providing a signal about the viability of candidates in the highly competitive Republican primary races for lieutenant governor, attorney general and state comptroller.

Although the Democrat and Republican expected to face off for governor reported raising $23.7 million between them, fundraising also was steady among GOP candidates in the next three highest statewide offices. No incumbents are on the ballot in the races for governor, attorney general and comptroller, marking one of the biggest turnovers of power in the last 14 years.

"You see a lot of excitement among a large number of donors giving to candidates across the board," said Mark P. Jones, an expert on campaign finance at Houston's Rice University. "The fundraising totals suggest we have some very competitive candidates across the board. ... You can't really count out anybody."

Texas is the second-largest state and has 20 media markets, forcing statewide candidates to rely on expensive television, radio and direct mail advertising to win. Texas law required all candidates to file campaign finance reports for the last half of 2013 on Wednesday.

In the race to replace Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Todd Staples has reported raising $2 million, with $3.1 million to spend in the next 50 days, while Dan Patrick reported raising $1.7 million with $3.1 million on hand. Dewhurst reported $2.3 million raised and $1.4 million in cash on hand, though he has a large personal fortune he can tap. Jerry Patterson reported raising $816,000 with $564,000 left over as of Dec. 31.

In the Republican attorney general's race, Dan Branch raised $1.9 million with a $4.9 million war chest. Barry Smitherman raised $1.7 million, but only had $2.1 million left. Ken Paxton raised $1 million, with $2.3 million on hand.

There are four candidates for state comptroller, who is responsible for balancing Texas' finances. Among Republicans, Glenn Hegar reported $2.57 million in the bank, while Harvey Hilderbran had $1.34 million. Raul Torres and Debra Medina trailed far behind.

"You have lots of candidates doing well, particularly in these second-tier statewide races," Jones said. "All of the (Republican) statewide races, with the exception of governor and land commissioner, are almost certain to go to a runoff."

In the Democratic primary, where few candidates face significant challengers for the nomination, Mike Collier reported raising $613,518 with $439,015 left over in his bid to become state comptroller. Sam Houston, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, reported $150,000 cash on hand.

The governor candidates, Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott, posted the biggest numbers, even though they don't face significant competition for their party's nomination. Davis reported raising $12.2 million in three accounts dedicated to her election, while Abbott reported raising $11.5 million since the last campaign finance reports were filed July 15.

But the big difference is the cash-on-hand. Abbott has $27 million, and Davis has already spent more than $1 million setting up her campaign since October. Davis' campaign bragged about the 71,000 donors she has attracted since she filibustered a strict new abortion law in June, while Abbott's campaign bragged that 98 percent of his cash came from within Texas.

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Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cltomlinson

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