Race to Raise: Johnson vs. Rinaldi

The effort by Julie Johnson (D) to unseat Texas House Representative Matt Rinaldi (R) is turning into one of the closest races to watch in Texas this November. The two lawyers are facing off to represent House District 115, which encompasses northwest Dallas County and portions of Coppell, Irving, and Farmers Branch.

Rinaldi, who has held the seat for two terms, is a founding member of the Texas Freedom Caucus, whose stated goal is to support “liberty-minded, grassroots Texans who want bold action to protect life, strengthen families, defend the U.S. and Texas Bills of Rights, restrain government and revitalize personal and economic freedoms in the State of Texas.” According to a non-partisan study by Dr. Mark Jones of Rice University, Rinaldi is tied with two others as the most conservative member of the Texas House.

In March, Johnson won the Democrat nomination with 77.26% of the vote over her primary contender Rock Bower. With unrest among conservative Texas politicos over a potential “blue wave” in Dallas County, it is worth noting that Johnson and Bower together netted 725 more votes than Rinaldi received in his unopposed primary election. If this is a harbinger of Democrat turnout in November, Rinaldi will have an uphill battle to retain his seat.

Here’a a quick look at the numbers:

Texas House District 115 – By The Numbers
 Matt Rinaldi  Julie Johnson
Total Money Raised $98,915.38 $460,114.33
Total Number of Donations 254 668
Average Donation Amount $389.43 $688.79
Total Money Raised In-District $20,705.00 $45,237.50
Total Number of Donations In-District  102  100
Percent of All Money Raised From In-District 20.93% 9.83%
Total Money Raised Outside District $78,210.38 $414,876.83
Total Number of Donations Outside District  152 568
Percent of All Money Raised From Outside District 79.07% 90.16%
Total Expenditures in Primary $23,159.84 $114,660.50
Total Votes in Primary 5,802 5,043
Cost Per Vote in Primary $3.99 $22.74
Total Expenditures $47,400.13 $243,188.24

Overall, Johnson has out-raised Rinaldi 4:1. Of course Johnson had to raise money to survive a Democrat primary, while Rinaldi was unopposed in March. Regardless, the incumbent typically has the financial advantage. It is shocking to see the challenger so far ahead in the race to raise campaign cash.


Key Takeaways from the HD 115 Race:

  1. Chairman of the Associated Republicans of Texas Donates to a Democrat.
    The Beer Alliance of Texas PAC donated $10,000 to Johnson’s efforts to unseat Rinaldi. What’s interesting is who funds The Beer Alliance. Their largest donor is none other than Houstonian John Nau, President and CEO of Silver Eagle Distributors, the largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products in the United States. Nau also happens to be the Chairman of Associated Republicans of Texas. It seems odd for the chairman of a PAC whose stated mission is “to maintain the Republican majority in the Texas legislature” to donate to a Democrat. Perhaps Nau’s political preferences are not ideological but based on which candidate Nau believes will allow him unfettered access to the top echelons of Texas government?
  2. In-District Donors Show Support for Johnson.
    In-district donations are a key indicator of a campaign’s strength, not only because of the importance of the money, but because they are invariably tied to voter-turnout. In this case, Johnson and Rinaldi are virtually tied when it comes to the number of in-district donations, but when it comes to the amount, Johnson’s in-district donations are more than twice Rinaldi’s. After serving two terms as the representative of HD 115, one would expect Rinaldi’s numbers to be stronger.
  3. Giving When It Hurts.
    It is not uncommon for elected officials to donate money to their colleagues. The gesture builds good will and can help those who are low on funds raise a large amount fairly easily from other lawmakers who are sitting on oversized campaign war chests. Interestingly enough, Rinaldi has given money to ten other campaigns during the 2018 election cycle. Given his tough reelection battle and relatively low cash-on-hand, Rinaldi’s gifts, which total $7,000.00, demonstrate his willingness to invest in others he believes would be ideologically aligned were they to make it to Austin.

Before you go…

Quite a few elected officials are stepping up to help Rinaldi. U.S Congressman Kenny Marchant donated $1,000 this past summer; State Senator Don Huffines has pitched in $5,000; and State Representatives James Frank, Matt Schaefer and Jeff Leach have also contributed to help their colleague retain his seat.

*This article was originally published on September 17 and was updated September 18, 2018.

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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