Campaign Cash: Who's in the Money?

Some war chests are full; some are empty

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who represents part of South Austin, ended the reporting period with zero dollars in his campaign coffers, suggesting his intention to leave office.
State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who represents part of South Austin, ended the reporting period with zero dollars in his campaign coffers, suggesting his intention to leave office. (Photo by John Anderson)

Money doesn't buy seats in the Legislature – well, not directly, anyway. On July 15, candidates for the Nov. 2 election had to file their semiannual campaign finance reports. As the first major financial disclosures of the post-primary season, these reports are often seen as an indicator of a candidate's ability to fund and organize a real campaign. With no Green Party of Texas legislative candidates on the Travis County ballot and the Libertarian Party of Texas keeping its campaigns cash-free, the money race comes down to the Democrats and Republicans. So far, the five incumbent Democrats are leading their Republican challengers across the ballot. But with four months to go before election day and the Texas GOP gunning to reinforce its Texas House majority, these races could still see a flurry of late donations.

Senate District 14 Contributions Expenditures Cash on Hand
Kirk Watson* (D) $452,912 $218,605 $1,609,741
Mary Lou Serafine (R) $23,868 $3,343 $14,682
Kent Phillips (L) $0 $0 $0

Serafine may be the only Senate candidate to be endorsed by the Bush-backed Hispanic Republicans of Texas, but even with the $4,000 they gave and $12,500 from oil man Ron Amini, she's still being left in the dust by the incumbent.

SD 25 Contributions Expenditures Cash on Hand
Jeff Wentworth* (R) $79,078 $120,069 $0
Arthur Maxwell Thomas IV (L) $0 $0 $0

There's little doubt that Wentworth will stroll to victory, but emptying his coffers seems bold unless he is absolutely serious about his discussions to quit the Senate and take a paying position with Texas A&M University before the session starts.

House District 25 Contributions Expenditures Cash on Hand
Dawnna Dukes* (D) $9,900 $19,612 $13,110
George Emery (L) $0 $51 $30

With no Republican challenger, Dukes needn't be too concerned about raising too much cash. However, it's not her campaign finances she has to worry about: The House Appropriations Committee member is currently being sued for more than $32,000 in fees and outstanding payments on two credit cards.

HD 47 Contributions Expenditures Cash on Hand
Valinda Bolton* (D) $128,484 $36,737 $119,864
Paul Workman (R) $100,244 $89,981 $66,923
Kris Bailey (L) $50 $50 $0

Republicans have long regarded HD 47 as the most winnable House seat in Travis County. Workman is comfortably ahead of where Bolton's 2008 challenger Donna Keel stood at the same time, but he blew through a lot of cash in a run-off against Holly Turner, widely perceived as a weak candidate. By contrast, Bolton's fundraising so far is down less than $400 since the same report in the last cycle, while her war chest is up $33,000 from the last race.

HD 48 Contributions Expenditures Cash on Hand
Donna Howard* (D) $120,708 $29,110 $212,974
Dan Neil (R) $40,694 $26,699 $10,978
Ben Easton (L) $0 $0 $0

Neil's campaign has tried to make cash an issue, falsely claiming that Howard was stopping him from working (in reality, his employers at ESPN Austin 104.9FM simply took him off the air for the duration of the election in order to comply with Federal Communications Commission regulations). On the fundraising front, Howard is beating him 3-to-1 and has 20 times his resources in the bank. The question now is how much Neil's newly formed PAC can raise.

HD 49 Contributions Expenditures Cash on Hand
Elliott Naishtat* (D) $10,925 $24,561 $238,075
Nathan Kleffman (L) $0 $0 $0

With one of the safest seats in the state, the only surprising thing about Naishtat's numbers is that he spent anything at all. In fact, much of his expenditures are donations to other Democrats seeking election.

HD 50 Contributions Expenditures Cash on Hand
Mark Strama* (D) $113,089 $36,773 $140,885
Patrick McGuinness (R) $21,257 $11,188 $10,075
Emily Cowan (L) $370 $257 $113

Take out Strama's longstanding $45,000 loan, which he has paid down from $175,000 in 2004, and his finances still look good; remove McGuinness' $10,000 donation to his own campaign, and his fundraising effort seems troubled by comparison.

HD 51 Contributions Expenditures Cash on Hand
Eddie Rodriguez* (D) $27,524 $27,868 $8,429
Marilyn Jackson (R) $7,967 $5,272 $965
Arthur DiBianca (L) $0 $0 $0

With Rodriguez facing his first-ever Republican opponent, it's not surprising that his fundraising machine may be a little rusty. However, with Jackson's campaign virtually flat broke, it will take a remarkable effort by her campaign to remove the incumbent.

* incumbent; Source: Texas Ethics Commission

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