Race to Raise: Johnson vs. Huffines

Texas Senator Don Huffines (R) (pictured left) appears to be in grave danger of losing his legislative seat this November. Of the 15 Texas Senate races this fall, three are considered up for grabs. Senate District 16, currently held by Huffines, is widely believed to be the most vulnerable for the incumbent.

Although the seat has been held by Republicans since the early 1980’s, the demographics of this North Texas district have been shifting in favor of Democrats. Hillary Clinton won the district over Donald Trump by 4.7 percentage points, and Democrats are hopeful that Beto-mania will trickle down to help them flip this district to the blue column.

Huffines, a successful Dallas real-estate developer, first won the seat in 2014 by running to the right of then-incumbent John Carona. Huffines now faces a challenge from the left in Democrat attorney Nathan Johnson.

Here’s a quick look at the numbers:

Texas Senate District 16 – By The Numbers
Don Huffines (Incumbent) Nathan Johnson
Total Money Raised $1,120,061.58 $729,619.00
Total Number of Donations 444 1384
Average Donation Amount $2,522.66 $527.18
Total Money Raised In-District $596,509.78 $600,675.20
Total Number of Donations In-District 262 1200
Percent of All Money Raised In-District 53.26% 82.33%
Total Money Raised Outside District $523,551.80 $128,943.80
Total Number of Donations Outside District 182 184
Percent of All Money Raised Outside District 46.74% 17.67%
Total Expenditures in Primary $746,510.42 $173,191.00
Total Votes in Primary 30,311 25,437
Cost Per Vote in Primary $24.63 $6.81
Total Expenditures $1,785,506.22 $450,410.92


Huffines ran unopposed in the Republican primary, while Johnson easily defeated  criminal defense attorney Joe Bogen to win the Democrat primary, 69.59% to  30.41% respectively.

Key Takeaways from the SD 16 Race:

  1. Johnson has enormous advantage with in-district donors.
    Johnson has racked up a whopping 1200 donors from inside SD 16, compared to Huffines’s 262. Although Huffines is only slightly behind in the total amount raised from donors in the district ($596,509.78 to Johnson’s $600,675.20) the sheer number of donations is a good sign for the challenger. When someone cares enough to make a donation, they are highly likely to turnout to vote, and at the end of the day, votes are the number that counts.
  2. Huffines is willing to share the wealth.
    Huffines has shared his campaign cash with a host of other conservative candidates, both state and federal. In the Texas Senate, Huffines has donated to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick ($1,000), as well as Senators Konni Burton ($2,500) and Bob Hall ($5,000), both of whom are also considered at-risk for losing their seats. He also shared $100,000 of his campaign money with his twin brother, Phillip Huffines, in  his bid to represent neighboring Senate District 8. (Phillip Huffines lost in a heated primary contest to Angela Paxton, and has since repaid $47,000 to Don’s campaign account.) Huffines also shared the wealth with conservatives in Texas House races, giving $5,000 to Thomas McNutt, $5,000 to House Rep. Matt Rinaldi, $2,500 to Lisa Luby Ryan, and $2,000 to Deanna Metzger. Likewise, U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul as well as the Trump Victory Fund have each received $2,700 from Huffines’s campaign. Sharing that much campaign cash is rare. It seems Huffines is more confident in the outcome of his race than the pundits, or perhaps he truly believes in conservative principles and is willing to help other like-minded candidates.
  3. It all comes down to turnout.
    Huffines received almost 5,000 more votes in the March primary than Johnson, but Democrat votes were split between Johnson and his primary challenger Bogen. Counting votes for both Bogen and Johnson, the Democrats racked up 6,251 more votes than Huffines. Huffines will need to ratchet-up the Republican turnout if he wants to hold on to his seat. Fortunately for Huffines, he has $490,817.27 cash-on-hand — $174,296.97 more than Johnson — to try to do just that.

Before you go…

Although Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, has donated to the other two close Texas Senate races, contributing $60,800.00 to Senator Konni Burton and a whopping $247,471.00 to Senator Bob Hall, he has not contributed to the Huffines campaign. Since Patrick has more than 8 million dollars in cash-on-hand, it’s surprising he’s not doing more to protect one of his own.


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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