Two potentially vulnerable Texas Republicans in Congress were outraised — and a few others saw seriously funded challengers — as the first major fundraising deadline passed in a cycle where national Democrats have built an expansive battlefield here, targeting six seats.
In the second quarter, Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, fell short of Democratic challenger Sri Preston Kulkarni, $378,000 to $421,000. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, raised less than Democratic opponent Kim Olson, $225,000 to $279,000, before making a large loan to his campaign. And a few other GOP incumbents posted strong numbers — but so did Democrats running to unseat them, in a couple cases outpacing the officeholders after they entered the race mid-fundraising cycle.
Taken together, the latest campaign finance reports affirm Texas' status as a top battleground for congressional races next year, even as the primaries in some races are still taking shape. The filings were due Monday to the Federal Election Commission and cover the past three months.
Texas is a central part of the 2020 strategy being waged by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which set up an office in Austin earlier this year and hired staff dedicated to the state.
As the DCCC targets the half dozen districts, its GOP counterpart is playing offense in two that flipped last year: the 7th and 32nd districts. In the 32nd District, Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, raked in $592,000, even though he does not have a serious Republican challenger yet. In the 7th District, Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston, raised $566,000. One of the Republicans vying to face her, Wesley Hunt, finished close behind at $514,000.
The targeted incumbents from both parties still have more cash on hand than any of their opponents, but getting outraised — or close to it — this early could mean trouble for the road ahead. It was an early indicator of danger for some Texas Republican members last cycle who went on to lose their seats or decided to retire.
This time around, there is little doubt that the targeted Republicans are taking their races seriously with over a year to go, at least according to the FEC reports. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, took in $646,000, and even though Marchant was outraised in contributions from others, he loaned himself $285,000 in a potential show of commitment to a vigorous race. The loan helped push Marchant's cash-on-hand tally past $2 million.
Still, in most of the targeted races, Democrats had plenty to boast about. Austin attorney Shannon Hutcheson, one of three Democrats vying to take on McCaul, raised $324,000 in the second quarter despite launching her campaign halfway through the period. It was a similar situation in West Texas' 23rd District, a perennial battleground, where fundraising by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, topped $700,000, but Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones jumped in the race in mid-May and outpaced Hurd during her time in the race to haul in $588,000.
Like Kulkarni, Jones is running again after coming close last cycle — in Jones' case, less than half a percentage point behind Hurd.
The second quarter was the first period in which serious candidates emerged in most of the targeted districts, though the races in some are still developing. U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, who raised $412,000, is still waiting to see if Wendy Davis, the former Democratic gubernatorial nominee, runs against him. And U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, who took in $351,000, has drawn several Democratic opponents, though their fundraising was relatively minimal.
© 2019 The Texas Tribune