Race to Raise: Lucido vs. Huffman

Democrats have their eyes on three Texas Senate seats they believe they can flip to the blue column on November 6th. If they can pull off this trifecta, it would end Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s Senate supermajority, and send a loud message that Texas is not as conservative as it once was.

Transparency Texas has examined Beverly Powell’s (D) challenge to incumbent State Senator Konni Burton (R) for Senate District 10 as well as Nathan Johnson’s  (D) campaign to unseat State Senator Don Huffines (R) in Senate District 16. This week, we turn our attention to the third highly competitive race, Rita Lucido’s (D) challenge to State Senator Joan Huffman (R) (pictured left) in Senate District 17.

The Lucido vs. Huffman race is a rematch. In 2014, Huffman soundly defeated Lucido by nearly 30 percentage points. This time around, however,  several factors make Lucido a more formidable opponent: an uptick in voter registrations in Fort Bend County, the heart of SD 17, as well as an expected down-ballot boost from Democrat voters turning out to support Beto O’Rourke. There is another sign the district might not be as solidly Republican as it once was — in 2012, SD 17 voters supported Romney over Obama by 20 points, but in 2016, SD 17 chose Trump over Clinton by less than one point.

Here’s a quick look at the numbers:

Texas Senate District 17 – By The Numbers
Joan Huffman (Incumbent) Rita Lucido 
Total Money Raised $1,048,343.07 $373,271.40
Total Number of Donations 324 1147
Average Donation Amount $3,235.63 $325.43
Total Money Raised In-District $24,250.00 $208,324.74
Total Number of Donations In-District 20 724
Percent of All Money Raised In-District 2.31% 55.81%
Total Money Raised Outside District $1,024,093.07 $164,946.66
Total Number of Donations Outside District 304 423
Percent of All Money Raised Outside District 97.69% 44.19%
Total Expenditures in Primary and
$1,095,025.14 $97,299.99*
Total Votes in Primary and Runoff* 36,830 28,202*
Cost Per Vote in Primary and Runoff* $29.73 $3.45
Total Expenditures $1,301,958.50 $324,910.30

*The chart reflects votes and expenditures for the Democrat primary and runoff. There was no runoff election for the Republicans.

The Democrat primary began with three contenders — divorce and family law attorney Rita Lucido, attorney and LGBT activist Fran Watson, and “self-employed” perennial candidate Ahmad Hassan. Watson and Lucido advanced to a runoff, where Lucido bested Watson, 57.8% to 42.2%.

In the Republican primary, Huffman, originally elected to the Texas Senate in 2008 and the current Chair of the influential State Affairs Committee, fended off challenger Kristin Tassin, 72.6% to 27.4%. Tassin is the President of the Fort Bend ISD Board.

Richwood City Councilwoman and former Mayor Pro-Tem Lauren LaCount is also competing to represent SD 17 as a libertarian candidate. LaCount has raised a total of $4,825.00 and has not spent any money since June.

Key Takeaways from the SD 17 Race:

  1. Lieutenant Governor Shares Campaign Cash
    Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, is Huffman’s second largest contributor, donating a total of $83,811.00 (including a $50,000 loan) to her re-election bid. Patrick’s donations during the primary season helped Huffman fend off Tassin. Tassin’s challenge was largely based on  Huffman’s perceived support for Patrick’s attempts to lower property taxes by reforming funding for public education.
  2. Public School Lobby Switches Teams
    Disapproval of Patrick’s — and by extension, Huffman’s — support for reforming the funding of public education runs deep. Many of the PACs that lobby for increased funding for public schools supported Huffman’s Republican primary challenger, Tassin, but have now switched teams and are  funding the Democrat Lucido in the general election. Houston Federation of Teachers COPE, Act for Texas Classroom Teachers Association, Texas American Federation of Teachers, Texas Parent PAC, and Texas State Teachers’ Association PAC all seem to be on the Anybody-But-Huffman bandwagon.
  3. Individual Donors vs. PACs
    Huffman has raised nearly three times the amount Lucido has raised from less than one-third as many donors. How’d she do it? As an incumbent and chair of one of the most powerful committees in the Texas Senate, it is no surprise that many industry and issue-advocacy PACs are lining up to support Huffman. Large donations from these PACs explain how Huffman has fewer overall donors but has managed to significantly out-raise Lucido. Lucido’s campaign funding comes from 33 PACs and 1,114 individuals, while Huffman’s haul stems from 172 PACs and just 152 individuals. While the cash advantage goes to Huffman, Lucido has more individual donors, and those individuals tend to vote.

Before you go…

As we enter the final days before the election, Huffman’s war chest is vast. Despite raising and spending more than a million dollars, she still reports close to a quarter-of-a-million dollars cash-on-hand ($249,977.67). In contrast, Lucido reports $93,943.82 cash-on-hand. A bid for a district as vast as SD 17 requires competitive cash. While the numbers at the end of the day on November 6 are the only ones that matter, Huffman is certainly winning the financial arms race.

**This article does not include information from the 8 Day Reports, as we are still cleaning up the data and making it easily searchable. Please check our website for updates!


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.


Read More Case Studies