Dems Building Serious War Chests

Who'd a thunk? Democrats are actually outraising Republicans in some hot House races.

Money may not buy happiness, but it can certainly improve one's negotiating position. So state Democrats must be happy about the latest campaign finance reports and the edge they may give them in winning some House races. In the 27 most highly watched seats, between July 1 and Sept. 25, Demo­crats outraised their Republican opponents by $1.2 million, outspent them by $400,000, and still have a little more than $1.2 million extra cash on hand for the final sprint to Election Day. Powerful Democratic political action committees such as Blue Texas and Annie's List have pumped more money than ever into the equation, but it's worth noting that these aren't the final numbers. There's another month of fundraising and spending left, and in prior election cycles, big Republican PACs (such as the Tom Craddick-affiliated Empower Texans PAC) and major conservative donors such as Houston builder Bob Perry and San Antonio hospital-bed tycoon James Leininger wait until the last days of the election to dump cash into close races. Here's a look at the campaign money in Travis County and beyond:

House District 47 (Travis Co.)

Valinda Bolton* (D) raised $118,764, spent $64,462 (cash on hand $125,448).
Donna Keel (R) raised $54,224, spent $35,068 (cash on hand $36,778).

Since the beginning of the year, Keel's family has boosted her coffers by $26,500, including $12,500 in cash and services in this latest report. Add to that $16,000 from the Republican Party of Texas and $6,525 from the Travis Co. Republican Party. Bolton, on the other hand, picked up $25,000 from Annie's List and nearly $16,000 from the House Democratic Campaign Committee, while much of the rest of her donor list looks like a who's who of Austin politicos and activists.

HD 48 (Travis Co.)

Donna Howard* (D) raised $40,113, spent $146,740 (cash on hand $53,822).
Pamela Waggoner (R) raised $7,530, spent $5,060 (cash on hand $13,032).

Keeping up the same monthly pace that she managed in the first half of the year, Howard performed strongly among unions and medical PACs. Waggoner has depended on small individual donors, and money from Republican groups has dried up this quarter.

HD 50 (Travis Co.)

Mark Strama* (D) raised $62,965, spent $46,955 (cash on hand $69,795).
Jerry Mikus (R) raised $8,604, spent $5,209 (cash on hand $1,566).

Small as the war chest for Mikus' homegrown campaign may be, $6,275 came straight from Travis County Republican Party coffers. Meanwhile, Strama himself got the Dells to double down, with $5,000 apiece from Michael Dell and the Dell PAC. He's still also carrying $85,000 in campaign loans.

HD 17 (Bastrop, Lee, Burleson, Colorado, Fayette counties)

Donnie Dippel (D) raised $94,305, spent $23,012 (cash on hand $79,254).
Tim Kleinschmidt (R) raised $106,715, spent $102,528 (cash on hand $28,989).

After a slow start, Dippel gained momentum with $25,000 from the House Democratic Campaign Committee and a series of donations from incumbent reps. With $20,000 from the Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund and $37,600 from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Kleinschmidt hasn't been hurting for out-of-district money. But after huge outlays, he now has less than half the remaining funds that Dippel commands.

HD 52 (Williamson Co.)

Bryan Daniel (R) raised $84,874, spent $74,831 (cash on hand $19,142).
Diana Maldonado (D) raised $227,294, spent $79,997 (cash on hand $278,368).

The big shock result: Daniel picked up cash from his old sponsors in the agriculture PACs and Texans for Lawsuit Reform, but the big gun Democrat donors weren't going to let the No. 1 target seat in Central Texas slip away. Maldonado got $20,000 from the Texas House Democratic Cam­paign Commit­tee, $31,500 from Annie's List, and $50,000 from Blue Texas. Take those sums out, and she's still beating her Republican opponent.

HD 82 (Midland)

Tom Craddick* (R) raised $177,572, spent $556,756 (cash on hand $3 million).
Bill Dingus (D) raised $126,315, spent $116,284 (cash on hand $37,376).

Not surprisingly, the former Midland City Council member who dared challenge Speak­er Crad­dick's seemingly bottomless treasury got pulverized in the money race. While he edged close to Craddick in contributions, the speaker outspent him last quarter by more than $400,000 and still barely touched his savings. If this makes Dingus' run look like a costly fool's crusade, Texas Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto explained the upside for Dems statewide: "It forces Crad­dick to file a report so that way we can see where money is being spent in his race and other races too. It keeps him tied up in his district, and it stops him from campaigning outside his district." Craddick's finance reports are filled with big donors and some big contributions from commercial PACs ($10,000 from ExxonMobil PAC of Texas and $5,000 from GlaxoSmithKline PAC) and some interesting expenditures (including, in a local connection, $19,600 to Keel Systems, the computing firm owned by Thornton Keel, husband of HD 47 candidate Donna Keel and brother of Craddick parliamentarian Terry Keel).

Source: Texas Ethics Commission

* Incumbent

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