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Home | Tag Archives: election

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7 Texas Republicans in Congress Just Got Outraised by Their Democratic Rivals

WASHINGTON – There are few bigger warning signs for a member of Congress that their re-election may be in doubt than when a challenger outraises them. In Texas, it just happened to seven incumbents, all Republicans.

Since last week, when U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, revealed that he had raised a stunning $10.4 million between April and June in his bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a wave of Texas Democrats running for U.S. House seats similarly blasted out their own unusually strong fundraising numbers.

The numbers only became more striking when compared to their rivals: Some Democratic challengers raised two, three or even four times what their Republican incumbent rivals posted. All congressional candidates were required to file their second-quarter fundraising reports with the Federal Elections Commission by Sunday.

Along with Cruz, the six congressional incumbents who were outraised are delegation fixtures: U.S. Reps. John Carter of Round Rock, John Culberson of Houston, Will Hurd of Helotes, Pete Olson of Sugar Land, Pete Sessions of Dallas and Roger Williams of Austin.

In the 21st Congressional District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith is retiring, GOP nominee Chip Roy trailed his Democratic rival, Joseph Kopser. Several other Democratic candidates running in Republican strongholds across the state also posted abnormally large six-figure fundraising hauls.

Source: Federal Election Commission
Credit: Naema Ahmed

One of the biggest red flags for Republicans came from Carter’s once-safe 31st District. Thanks to a successful viral video, veteran M.J. Hegar raised more than four times Carter’s second-quarter sum – the biggest split among the races where Democrats outraised GOP incumbents.

Since last year, Democrats have been eyeing the seats held by Culberson, Hurd and Sessions. Despite each winning re-election in 2016, Hillary Clinton drew more votes than Donald Trump in their districts. The mood around Culberson and Sessions has markedly darkened in the past week, thanks in part to the fundraising of their rivals, attorneys Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Houston and Colin Allred of Dallas, respectively. Even Hurd, who’s built a reputation on his fundraising prowess, saw veteran Gina Ortiz Jones outpace him nearly two-to-one. But like Culberson and Sessions, Hurd has a distinct cash-on-hand advantage over his Democratic rival.

Hardly anyone in Texas will suggest that incumbents like Olson and Williams are in any significant electoral trouble because they were outraised. But the cumulative effect of so much strong Democratic fundraising is unnerving to many Texas Republican insiders.

One anxious Texas operative, however, suggested these fundraising numbers are merely a first alarm bell. The second may come once incumbents go into the field en masse and poll. But two GOP sources say many incumbents have been reluctant to poll their districts amid what feels like a chaotic political environment and are waiting for a more stable period to get an accurate read of the electorate.

For most of the election cycle, Republican operatives have brushed off strong Democratic fundraising. Republican Super PACs have been on a healthy fundraising streak. And in Texas specifically, Gov. Greg Abbott offers a massive financial and organization umbrella to down-ballot candidates. He recently reported he had a $30 million war chest and $16 million in television advertising. Democratic nominee Lupe Valdez has yet to release her latest fundraising figures, but few Democrats are counting on her to provide strong coattails in the fall.

Yet unsolicited, GOP insiders are beginning to chime in with the same refrain: As much as Abbott’s money and organization will offer cover, there is a growing concern about the fact that O’Rourke has so frequently outraised Cruz.

Some Republicans remain confident the center will hold in Texas.

“The net effect is safe Republican members will have to spend more on their races as as prophylactic measure,” said Dan Conston, a national GOP strategist who works on U.S. House races. “But assuming they run serious campaigns and focus on turning out their voters, these safe Republican seats will remain so in November.”

Yet those victories will come at a cost. In Texas, often viewed as a “donor state” in Republican politics, incumbents having to spend big to protect their own seats could wreak havoc with the money race in other parts of the country.

GOP members of Congress here are expected to raise millions of dollars for the House campaign arm and for vulnerable members elsewhere in the country. For this reason, the state expects and succeeds in holding positions of leadership within the party and chairmanships on Capitol Hill.

Now, many of these members with choice committee assignments and positions of influence in the party may end up spending more of their money protectively back home to reinforce their own seats. Collectively, that could wind up to be a pile of money not being sent to hotly contested races in places like Tucson, Denver and southern California.

An even more dire situation for the GOP would be if national Republicans feel compelled to buy television ads for Texas members they’ve never had to worry about before, like Sessions, Culberson and Carter.

It may all be a fluke or misdirected Democratic enthusiasm, but long-time operatives are hopeful that Democrats can lasso anti-Trump enthusiasm to, at the very least, do what scores of national strategists have previously come to Texas and failed to do: build the party.

The logic goes, even if most of these congressional candidates come up short, the money and organization they bring to the table is a major opportunity for party building at the local level.

In Harris County, Culberson’s 2016 Democratic rival had only raised a few thousand dollars at this point in the cycle. This time around, Fletcher more than doubled Culberson’s quarterly haul.

In the nearby 2nd Congressional District, veteran Dan Crenshaw, who is running for an open seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, was one of the few bright spots of Republican fundraising. He doubled the fundraising of his own rival, Democrat Todd Litton. Yet that follows multiple quarters where Litton posted six-figure hauls, far exceeding past Democratic nominees’ fundraising.

No matter how those races turn out, Harris County Democratic Chairwoman Lillie Schechter said these hauls help the larger Democratic goal of carrying the county in a midterm and winning more local races, including their goal of unseating state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place.

“Every bit of fundraising in Harris County, for every single Democratic committee, club, organization and candidate, helps us all with the fall,” she said.

Disclosure: Joseph Kopser has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Authors: ABBY LIVINGSTON AND PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Tiguas Tribe Bankrolling One of Their Own in Primary Bid Against State Rep. Mary González

EL PASO — A primary challenge isn’t anything new for state Rep. Mary González. The Democrat from Clint beat out two others for an open seat in 2012, then four years later fended off a former, longtime state representative vying for the position.

But this year she’s facing a challenger who’s received the largest campaign donation in a Democratic primary to date this cycle. MarySue Femath, a newcomer to politics, received $100,000 in October from the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Native of El Paso, commonly known as the Tiguas.

The tribe has been a fixture at the Capitol in past sessions, lobbying for the expansion of Texas gaming on Native American lands. Femath said she supports the tribe’s efforts, but its main casino, Speaking Rock in south El Paso county’s lower valley, isn’t in the district she hopes to represent. Instead, Femath said she thinks the Tigua leadership is more interested this year in simply having one of their own at the state Capitol.

“I was very humbled to have their support. It made me feel that they are supporting someone of their own, and I think that’s the most important issue [for them],” she said Tuesday from her campaign office on the reservation. “This candidacy is very unique — I would be the first Native American elected to the Texas Legislature.”

González said Wednesday she wasn’t worried about Femath’s financial backing. She said she’s running on her record and her seniority, which have afforded her appointments to the House Public Education and Appropriations committees and allowed her to serve as vice chairwoman of the Agriculture and Livestock committee.

Femath, a counselor at the Tiguas tribal education center, said she decided to run for the state House because she feels González has squandered opportunities over five years in office to improve House District 75, a largely rural pocket of El Paso County where impoverished areas of the state, known as colonias, still exist. No Republicans filed to run for the seat.

She’s hit González on issues such as lack of infrastructure and struggling schools and has used last year’s severe flooding as an example of how the area is underserved.

“I know it’s not a cheap fix, it’s not an overnight fix. Floods have been happening for decades,” she said. “But there hasn’t been an effort to to say [last session], ‘We need this amount of money.’”

González said the comments are what’s to be expected from a political novice who doesn’t understand the way things work in Austin, especially at the state Capitol, where the Republicans who control the Legislature don’t like to spend money.

“I don’t think she knows how much effort I do put into it, considering she’s never really been involved in the process,” González said. “We’ve had multiple meetings that I’ve organized with county and municipal water districts, all levels of government officials, to come up with a strategic plan.”

González added that she passed a bill in the House last year to reauthorize the Economically Distressed Areas Program, or EDAP, which funds water and wastewater projects in economically challenged areas.

“It died in the Senate, but no one even thought that [passing the House] was going to happen,” she said. “Nobody told me that could happen, and it had two Republican co-authors. “

Since August, González’s campaign has raised $129,967, compared to the $113,321 Femath has raised since she entered the race in the fall, nearly 90 percent of it from the Tiguas, according to reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.

González said her campaign hasn’t done any polling in the district. She said it wouldn’t have made a difference in how she ran her campaign, regardless of how much money Femath has raised.

“I already knew what I wanted to talk about: My work on Appropriations. I knew that I wanted to talk about my work in education,” she said. “It wasn’t going to change my campaign because I knew I wasn’t going to go negative.”

But Femath said she’s not running a negative campaign, just an honest one.

“No one really likes to hear what they are being ineffective on,” she said. “I am the challenger, so I am challenging her. These are issues that people need to know.”

Should she unseat González, Femath said she would be able to serve as an example for the Tiguas and other marginalized groups.

“We have this little world inside this bigger world, living on the reservation and being a Native American,” she said. “And sometimes we don’t think we can pursue higher titles or higher opportunities for our own.”

González said she supports diversity in the Texas Legislature but said her primary concern is about who the best candidate is.

“I think at the end of the day, identity politics can only go so far. The best person should represent the district,” she said. “I’ve worked really hard the last five years for my district.”

Femath’s success would also mean the El Paso delegation would take a hit in overall seniority. González has served longer than her colleagues Cesár Blancoand Lina Ortega, who are unopposed in their Democratic primaries for their third and second terms, respectively. And she’s just one two-year term shy of the city’s West side representative, Joe Moody, who is also unopposed in his primary but faces a Republican challenger.

That’s something González said should resonate with voters, especially when House lawmakers are going to elect a new Texas House Speaker next year for the first time since 2009.

“I think Democrats will have a seat at the table, and I am going to know a lot of the players,” she said. “And I have Republican friends, so I do get to be part of the conversation.”

“And I am still the vice chair of [the Mexican American Legislative Caucus]. That’s huge, and it’s also a bipartisan caucus.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

On First Day of Early Voting in Texas Primaries, Turnout Looks Up – Especially Among Democrats

On Tuesday, more Democrats cast primary ballots than Republicans on the first day of early voting in the 15 Texas counties with the most registered voters. That hasn’t happened since 2008.

Fifty-four percent of the day’s 51,249 in-person votes in those counties Tuesday were cast in the Democratic primaries, according to the Texas secretary of state. In 2014, that number was slightly less than half, and in 2010, Democrats represented just 45 percent of first-day voters.

Meanwhile, the total combined first-day turnout in those counties was up by more than 10,000 compared to the last two mid-term elections.

It’s hard to know what is responsible for those numbers — or whether the trends will continue through primary election day. The growth in first-day turnout comes during a time of high motivation among Democrats across the country. But there aren’t high-profile Republican primaries for governor or U.S. Senate in Texas this year.

Also, the state’s urban centers tend to lean more Democratic, so it’s unclear whether the numbers are similar in more rural counties.

Strong primary turnout for one party doesn’t necessarily replicate itself in a general election. The last time Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans on first-day voting in primaries was 2008 during a heated presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Republicans still swept the state that year.

Still, some of Tuesday’s numbers have Democrats excited.

In 2010, 15,523 Democrats in the top 15 counties voted on the primary’s first day of early voting. This year, that figure has nearly doubled, to 28,475. Republican first-day turnout increased over the same period, but only by about 4,000 voters.

In Harris County, home of Houston, Democratic turnout was up 200 percent from 2014, while Republican turnout increased by 25 percent. And in Dallas County, Democratic first-day turnout grew 56 percent from 2014 to 2018, while Republican first-day turnout shrunk 19 percent.

Texas provides for nearly two full weeks of early voting before the state’s official primary election day March 6. In 2014, nearly 600,000 total votes were cast in early voting.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: EMMA PLATOFF – The Texas Tribune

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