Race to Raise: Garza vs. Guillen

The race for House District 31 was one of the few contested Democrat primaries in the Texas House during the 2018 Election Cycle. Six term incumbent State Representative Ryan Guillen faced off with challenger Ana Lisa Garza, a former district judge.

Guillen hasn’t made many waves in Austin during his tenure as a state representative, a fact which contributed to Garza’s challenge. Her critiques of Guillen centered on what she deemed a lack of rocking the boat, and an insistence on going along with the crowd. Despite her strong performance, voters ultimately decided they preferred Guillen’s approach, and he won reelection.

Here’s a quick look at the numbers:

Texas House District 31 – By The Numbers
 Ryan Guillen (I) Ana Lisa Garza 
Total Money Raised $257,055 $197,647
Total Number of Donations 226  91
Average Donation Amount $1,137.41 $2,171.95
Total Money Raised In-District $9,245 $58,396.66
Total Number of Donations In-District  19 26
Percent of All Money Raised From In-District 3.6% 29.55%
Total Money Raised Outside District $247,810.34 $139,250
Total Number of Donations Outside District  207  65
Percent of All Money Raised From Outside District 96.4% 70.45%
Total Expenditures $630,795 $241,358
Total Votes 14,268 11,491
Cost Per Vote $44.21 $9.99


First elected when he was only 24 years old, Guillen had never faced a primary challenge until Judge Garza’s bid. Garza’s district judge territory covers three out of the ten counties in the district, perhaps contributing to her impressive performance. Despite Guillen outspending Garza nearly 3:1, Garza still managed to net 44% of the overall vote. This could spell trouble for Guillen in two years. Political insiders will be closely watching  Guillen’s performance in the 2019 Legislative Session, and whether or not Garza seeks to challenge him again.

Key Takeaways from the HD 31 race:

  1. PACs vs. Individual Donors.
    As expected, the bulwark of twelve-year incumbent Guillen’s campaign funds came from various PACs, the majority of which were located in Austin. This includes Texas Association of Realtors, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Border Health PAC, Associated General Contractors of Texas, Medical Defense PAC, and more. Conversely, the vast majority of Garza’s support came from individuals, both inside and outside her district. Clearly, the lobby didn’t want Guillen to lose. Their willingness to pump money into his campaign allowed him to outspend Garza nearly 3:1.
  2. Unlikely Allies.
    While Guillen received support from many special interest PACs and lobbyists known for supporting Democrats, he also had two unlikely allies. Texas Farm Bureau and Texas Right to Life are usually on opposite sides of the Republican primaries, and almost never in the Democrat primaries. But Guillen received $3,000 from Texas Right to Life and $1,000 from Texas Farm Burea. Were these gifts simply to stop Garza, are these groups beginning to get involved in Democrat races, or is it something else? This development is worth watching closely.
  3. In-District Support.
    Garza achieved a rare feat in this raise, not only raising more money in-district than the incumbent Guillen but also securing more individual donations from constituents. While neither candidate raised the bulk of their funds from the district, Garza’s haul is notable as it proves a good number of constituents are dissatisfied with Guillen’s performance. Despite her defeat, this may be one of the more compelling reasons Garza might seek to challenge Guillen in the future.

Before you go…

$662,364. That’s how much Guillen is still sitting on in his campaign account after spending over $630,000 to defeat Garza. It appears being an incumbent really does have it’s financial perks, especially when one doesn’t have a primary opponent for over a decade. To build up that kind of campaign war chest, the lobby has to be pumping significant resources into a lawmaker’s account each cycle. For a guy who hasn’t made many headlines, that’s quite a bit of cash.


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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