The Austin Chronicle

Promising Start for Dem Senate Candidates

By Richard Whittaker, October 30, 2009, News

With Texas facing its most competitive U.S. Senate race in a decade, federal campaign finance reports are currently favoring the Democratic hopefuls.

In the latest filings, covering the race through Sept. 30, Houston Mayor Bill White leads the ticket in terms of fundraising, spending, and cash on hand. Close behind is fellow Democrat John Sharp, whom White will face in next year's primary. However, Sharp's take is boosted by a $3.1 million loan to his own campaign, and he trails White significantly on individual contributions, with White pulling in almost $4 million to the former state comptroller's $641,084. That said, you still can't read too much into it: Sharp's early campaign strategy was based on the idea that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would quit the Senate early to start her primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry, turning the Nov. 3 constitutional amendment election into a special Senate election, a scenario that didn't unfold. For that kind of race, name recognition and a quick cash injection would have been key, so it may be the next reports that define Sharp's fundraising prowess.

Trailing behind both Dems at this early stage are all four big-name Repub­licans fighting to replace Hutchison as their party's nominee. Former Secretary of State Roger Wil­liams broke the million-dollar mark on individual contributions and loaned himself another $150,000. Meanwhile, the battle between Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams (no relation to Roger Williams) and Elizabeth Ames Jones continues, with Williams coming out slightly ahead on donations and loans but having already spent most of what he raised. State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, brings up the rear on fundraising among the big-name contenders.

Unsurprisingly, there's less cash flow in the congressional races. Republican 10th Congressional District incumbent Mike McCaul has out-raised Dem challenger Jack McDonald ($1,214,096 to $932,613), but their war chests are much closer in heft (McCaul has $891,906 in his coffers to McDonald's $805,308, plus McCaul is sitting on $934,478 in unretired debt). The scene in CD 21 is far less competitive, where Demo­crat Lainey Melnick's $2,435 in available funds is scarcely one-fourth of 1% of Republican Rep. Lamar Smith's $961,588 cash pile.

Bill WhiteD$5,285,464$1,855,768$4,182,372
John SharpD$3,789,459$435,158$3,354,301
Roger WilliamsR$1,206,383$474,517$862,892
Michael WilliamsR$623,667$505,405$118,261
Elizabeth Ames JonesR$614,446$229,054$530,514
Florence ShapiroR$488,900$308,763$555,693

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