07/24/19

These Texas Politicians Are Raking In the Campaign Cash

The first campaign finance reports of 2020 are live. Here’s a look at the ten candidates who have collected the most campaign cash so far:

On paper, challengers have had the financial advantage. While incumbents were subject to a moratorium on fundraising for almost six months, political hopefuls have been able to raise money all year without restriction. But, in politics, money follows power, and the incumbent currently holds the power. These reports reflect donations collected for the first half of 2019, so they include only about two weeks of fundraising for incumbents. Each person on the top ten list is an incumbent.

  1. Governor Greg Abbott – ($12,115,462) Abbott is known for his nearly superhuman ability to raise money, and so far this election cycle he does not disappoint. Since he handily secured reelection last November for a four-year term, one might expect his campaign donations to slow. Not even close — his $12 million haul is even more than he raised in the same time frame two years ago. (Subscribers to our email list got an early look at Abbott’s jaw-dropping receipts). 
  2. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick ($3,129,097) In just two weeks, Patrick was able to rake in more than $3 million, including 12 gifts of $100,000 or more. These donations give Patrick more than $11 million cash-on-hand and make him a formidable player going in to 2020. While Patrick will not be up for reelection, he can share those campaign dollars with other candidates. Eleven million could go a long way to keeping the Texas Senate in Republican control.
  3. Attorney General Ken Paxton ($1,369,722) Paxton’s donor list is topped by three gifts of $100,000 each. One of these gifts is from a relative newcomer to Texas political giving, Douglas Scharbauer of Midland. Paxton is not up for reelection until 2022, so perhaps these gifts are a sign of approval of Paxton’s job performance or an attempt to help him shore up funds after a close and costly challenge from Justin Nelson last year.
  4. Comptroller Glenn Hegar ($836,240) As CFO of the Texas economy, Hegar is responsible, among other things, for telling lawmakers how much they have available to spend each legislative session. Apparently donors have been pleased with the job he’s doing — especially as Texas has recently been flush with cash. A fundraising haul of more than $800,000 is impressive for a state comptroller who won’t face reelection for four more years.
  5. Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick ($559,349) As one of three commissioners leading the organization that regulates the Texas oil and gas industry, it’s not surprising to see Craddick’s donor list replete with Texas oil executives. Craddick won reelection in 2018 for a six-year term.
  6. Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton ($539,225) Sitton is up for reelection in 2020, so it is somewhat surprising to find him out-raised by Craddick, his fellow Commissioner. Expect his contributions to climb significantly if and when he draws a challenger.
  7. Texas Supreme Court Justice Brett Busby ($489,289) Busby is the only member of the Texas Supreme Court to make it into the top ten for fundraising so far this cycle. Formerly a member of Texas 14th District Court of Appeals, Busby was defeated in the general election in 2018, when Democrats won a clean sweep of judicial races in Texas urban areas. In January, Governor Abbott stepped in and appointed Busby to a vacant seat on the Texas Supreme Court. He was confirmed by the Texas Senate in March. Although Texas Supreme Court justices serve six-year terms, Busby will face reelection in 2020 because he was a mid-term appointee.
  8. State Senator Dawn Buckingham ($405,040) Dr. Buckingham, an oculoplastic and reconstructive surgeon, is the only State Senator to make the top ten list so far this cycle. A generous $100,00 gift from her constituents and top donors Mary and Michael Porter set her up well to fend off any challengers when she is up for reelection in 2020. 
  9. Land Commissioner George P. Bush ($402,303) Despite criticism of how he is handling the renovations and “reimagining” of The Alamo, Bush sailed to reelection victory by more than ten percentage points last November. A land commissioner raising more than $400,000 in two weeks may have as much to do with his famous family as it does with his job performance. Bush is not up for reelection until 2022.
  10. House Representative David Mayes Middleton ($300,105) Middleton, a rancher and oil and gas executive, is the only member of the Texas House of Representatives on the top ten. He earned this spot by giving a $300,000 contribution to his own campaign account. Middleton defeated then-incumbent Wayne Faircloth in the Republican primary in 2018 and went on to easily win the general election. All members of the Texas House are up for reelection every two years.

Surprised to see Dennis Bonnen’s name missing from this list? We have a few thoughts on what his absence could mean.

The incumbents topping the fundraising list for the first half of 2019 were the beneficiaries of two weeks of cash flooding their coffers. Next week, we’ll turn our attention to the other side of this equation. Don’t miss our rundown of the donors who underwrite the powers-that-be in Austin. At Transparency Texas, we provide the answers you need about the money in Texas politics. Subscribe here to get the latest news sent directly to your inbox.


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