Vol 31, Issue 29 Print Issue

For Candidates, War Chests Tell Different Stories

For campaigns, keeping a healthy fundraising balance serves an important practical function. Having plenty of cash on hand allows candidates to pay the bills for re-election campaigns that can become expensive in a hurry, depending on the caliber of the challenge.

Beyond that, though, a large campaign war chest serves other purposes. It can deter potential challengers. It can demonstrate candidates' legitimacy should they have ambitions to move up the officeholder ladder. It can even serve as a powerful signal to potential contributors that candidates are legit and that they are worth the investment.

Looking at the campaign fund balances for the major parties' top-of-the-ticket candidates tells different stories. Let's take a look:

The historic tenure of Gov. Rick Perry has had a huge impact on his fellow GOP statewide officeholders. Greg Abbott, for instance, has been frozen at attorney general since his election in 2002. With easy re-election campaigns every four years, Abbott has had plenty of opportunity to amass a robust war chest, which has hit record levels with his campaign for governor.


Wendy Davis has waged two tough general election campaigns to win and keep her Fort Worth-based state Senate seat. The more expensive race was her 2012 re-election campaign, illustrated by the dip in her campaign fund balance from July 2012 to January 2013. And it's worth noting the large bump up in July 2013, reflecting the political contributions that rolled in over the five days after her reputation-making abortion law filibuster. More recently, her coordinated fundraising efforts with Battleground Texas have pushed her totals to more like what would be needed to run effectively across the state of Texas.

Dan Patrick's campaign balances show one thing clearly: It isn't cheap trying to unseat a sitting lieutenant governor in the party primaries. But he did exactly that this year, defeating an incumbent who basically had access to a bottomless pool of money. Patrick now has the challenge of further rounds of fundraising to build up the campaign coffers for an expensive general election campaign.

Patrick's opponent in November, Leticia Van de Putte, has spent her career as a legislator and not a statewide officer. Her campaign balances reflect that. They are modest and show more than anything her easy paths to re-election. That, of course, has changed this year with her decision to run statewide. Like Davis, her fundraising this year is a joint effort with an affiliated campaign committee.

Perry's fundraising balances are interesting to look at as well, demonstrating both when he was gearing up for re-election as governor and when he was looking to run for president. Note the steady shrinkage of his campaign war chest since the beginning of 2013, attributable to both his lame-duck status in Austin and his increased attention to a second run for the White House.