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05/07/18

Race to Raise: Carter vs. Reynolds

Historically, Texas has had its fair share of wheeling and dealing public officials. The list of those who have used “The Honorable” title for personal gain or as a means to evade legal woes is long. Many political insiders in Austin have already added current State Representative Ron Reynolds‘ name to this infamous list. Reynolds has been convicted of multiple misdemeanor charges for illegal solicitation of clients for his law practice and has been accused of a myriad of other legal infractions, all of which he’s challenging in court. Despite a record rife with controversy and actions many would consider unbecoming of a State Representative, he continues to be reelected.

In the 2018 Primary Election, Reynolds was challenged by Fort Bend attorney Wilvin Carter. A former Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney with Fort Bend County, Carter’s legal credentials arguably surpass Reynolds’. But the voters of HD 27 ultimately chose to stick with Reynolds, the man who has represented them since 2011.

Here’s a quick look at the numbers:

Texas House District 27 – By The Numbers
 Ron Reynolds (I)  Wilvin Carter 
Total Money Raised $65,133 $29,071
Total Number of Donations 87  115
Average Donation Amount $748.66 $252.79
Total Money Raised In-District $7,200 $10,463
Total Number of Donations In-District  32  45
Percent of All Money Raised From In-District 11.05% 35.99%
Total Money Raised Outside District $57,933 $18,608
Total Number of Donations Outside District  55  70
Percent of All Money Raised From Outside District 88.95% 68.01%
Total Expenditures $31,393 $39,064
Total Votes 7,864 4,950
Cost Per Vote $3.99 $7.89

 

Time and again political insiders thought Reynolds had finally gone too far, and his legal troubles were about to catch up with him. Yet each time journalists began to write his political obituary, Reynolds somehow survived. His ability to jump through hoops and perform legal jujitsu would be something to admire, were it not so sad. The residents of HD 27 had an opportunity to replace Reynolds with a young and by all accounts  enthusiastic man with an impressive list of credentials, yet they did not. Reynolds’ deep ties in the district seemed to play a role, along with the fact that incumbents are hard to beat. But with ongoing legal issues and actual jail time as a real possibility for Reynolds, it’s likely the drama in HD 27 isn’t over.

Key Takeaways from the HD27 race:

  1. Cost per vote.
    Both candidates’ cost-per-vote was impressively efficient relative to most State House races. Reynolds however, had one of the lowest cost-per-vote numbers in either Republican or Democrat primaries this cycle. The reason likely stems from strong relationships within the district, not only with individual voters but also with influencers who can help turn out the vote. To unseat Reynolds, a challenger will likely have to be a native of the district with similarly strong ties or have a large war chest of campaign cash.
  2. PACs and the lobby don’t care.
    Despite his ongoing legal troubles, Reynolds had no problem raising funds from lobbyists and PACs based outside the district. He received $2,500 from Texas Land Developers Association PAC, $2,000 from CenterPoint Energy PAC, $1,500 from CWA-COPE PAC, and $1,000 each from Associated General Contractors of Texas PAC, BracewellPAC, Oncor PAC, Texas Automobile Dealers Association PAC, Texas Medical Association PAC, Texas Optometric PAC, and the Texas State Teachers Association PAC. While the gifts weren’t massive relative to other contributions these PACs made to other lawmakers, the fact remains these entities chose the low road – supporting an incumbent who, in addition to his legal troubles, currently owes over $50,000 to the Texas Ethics Commission in fines.
  3. Carter’s opening.
    Taking out an incumbent legislator often takes multiple tries. Should Carter decide to challenge Reynolds again in two years, he’ll likely be a formidable opponent. While he did spend more money on the race than Reynolds, he raised more money in-district and had more in-district donors. Couple this with the fact that he had more overall donors – none of which were PACs – and the tide could turn. Should the Austin lobby begin looking for a new candidate to back in HD 27, Carter might just be their man.

Before you go…

While it’s not uncommon for legislators to repay themselves for money they’ve loaned their campaigns, it is quite rare that these payments rank as the number one expenditure for a candidate. But sure enough, Reynolds’ top recipient of funds from his campaign account was none other than himself. Hopefully the donors and PACs who donated to his campaign were aware of what Reynolds would be doing with their contributions. If not, he may face some tough questions.

 

Our Race to Raise series takes a deeper look at the most high-profile races of the election cycle, focusing specifically on money raised by those seeking to serve in public office. Stay tuned for the next installment.

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