Four of the state's top officeholders — two of whom aren't even on the ballot in 2012 — each raised more than $1 million during the second half of 2011.
Perry, busy for most of the last half of the year with a presidential campaign, raised $1 million for his state campaign account, ending the year with a $2.5 million balance. That money can't easily be transferred to his federal campaign account, as federal campaign finance laws are more restrictive than state laws. For instance, there is a $2,500 limit on individual contributions to federal candidates, and there's no limit on what one person can give to a Texas candidate for a state race.
Most of the money appears to have come into Perry's state account in July and early August. The biggest contributors, each contributing $100,000, were the AT&T Texas PAC, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Perry, a Houston homebuilder who is not related to the governor but has been a generous backer over the years, and Brian Pardo, a Waco life insurance and financial planning executive. The Texas Farm Bureau's PAC gave Perry $50,000 and seven more contributors each gave $25,000. The rest of the more than 2,500 contributions to the governor's state account came in checks of as little as $10.
Dewhurst, running for the U.S. Senate, hit the mark in just three months, raising $1.5 million for his federal campaign account during the fourth quarter of 2011. Federal candidates don't have to report until the end of the month, but Dewhurst announced his total a couple of weeks early.
State candidates and officeholders were required to file reports with the Texas Ethics Commission on Tuesday, detailing their contributions, expenditures, loans and ending balances for the second six months of 2011. Not all of their reports were immediately available online, but many candidates — especially those who had good news to report — also announced their totals publicly.
Abbott raised $2.1 million and ended the year with just over $12 million on hand, putting himself far ahead of anyone else in Texas politics. He's got an eye on a 2014 race for governor; that balance gives him a huge head start over anyone who's not personally rich and willing to pay for a political race, and it serves to scare off potential competitors.
Combs raised $1.1 million during the second half of the year, ending with a cash balance of $6.1 million. She is considering a run for lieutenant governor, but unlike Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, she hasn't said she will definitely run for that post in 2014. Staples reported contributions of $619,445 and an end-of-year balance of $1.5 million. Patterson pulled in $260,979 and ended the year with $411,506 in the bank.
• Christi Craddick, a first-time candidate and the daughter of former House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, raised $757,741 for her Texas Railroad Commission bid. She ended the year with $609,477 in the bank. State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, who's also running for that seat, raised less and has more: He brought in $273,584, but had $755,622 on hand at year’s end. Houston lawyer Roland Sledge raised $127,435 and had $248,553 on hand. His campaign's borrowings totaled $212,946.
Comal County Commissioner Greg Parker suspended his campaign for the other Railroad Commission seat Tuesday, saying his fundraising has been anemic and can't support a statewide race. Parker raised $74,684 during the last six months of the year and had $1,000 in the bank at the end of last month. If nobody moves around — there's another filing period ahead — that would leave Barry Smitherman without opposition in the GOP primary.
• Republican Elizabeth Ames Jones, who's giving up a spot on the Texas Railroad Commission to run for the state Senate against Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, picked up an endorsement from former presidential candidate Steve Forbes. He'll be in San Antonio next week to host a fundraiser for her.
• Gov. Rick Perry is running third — in Texas — in the race for president, according to a new survey from North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling. The order of things in Texas, according to PPP: Mitt Romney, 24 percent; Newt Gingrich, 23 percent; Perry, 18 percent; Rick Santorum, 15 percent; and Ron Paul, 12 percent.
That same survey has Dewhurst in a 2-to-1 lead over his nearest rival, Ted Cruz, in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Dewhurst had 36 percent to Cruz's 18 percent. Tom Leppert was third, at 7 percent; 31 percent of the voters contacted were undecided.
The pollsters also asked Texans whether Perry's presidential run has been good for the state's image: 39 percent say it has hurt, 13 percent say it's helped and 45 percent say it hasn't made any difference.
The poll, done with automated phone calls, included 559 Republican primary voters. It was conducted Jan. 12-15 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.
• State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, won an endorsement from the National Rifle Association and got the NRA's "A" rating for her voting record. That group also gave its top rating to Ken King, one of five Republicans challenging state Rep. Jim Landtroop, R-Plainview, in House District 74. But it gave the same rating — and it's endorsement — to Landtroop. [Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said — incorrectly — that King got the NRA endorsement.]
• Here's an unusual Friday afternoon announcement from a consultant, in full: "As of yesterday, The Election Group, LLC, is no longer providing general campaign consulting for Scott O'Grady's campaign for State Senate, District 8. Our firm holds Captain O'Grady in the highest regard, and wish him well in all present & future endeavors."
O'Grady is running against state Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, for the seat now held by Florence Shapiro, R-Plano. A few days earlier, Paxton announced endorsements from 50 mayors and city council members in eight cities in that Collin County district.