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Texas Delegation Raises, Shares Big Money

Recently filed campaign finance reports show whether Texas congressional incumbents are building viable re-election operations, and they also reveal how Texans spread their campaign wealth to colleagues.

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WASHINGTON  — With the Dec. 14 candidate filing deadline looming ahead of the March 1 primary, Texans in Congress recently showed their fundraising prowess — or lack thereof — through third-quarter reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. And a closer look at those records shows which incumbents appear to be confident or possibly anxious about their re-election bids.

Not only do the fundraising reports provide insight into how an incumbent feels about his or her re-election prospects, they also show a key way in which Texans have wielded power in Washington: by spreading their campaign wealth to colleagues. Most of that money eventually goes to TV ad campaigns that Americans will see during the primary and general election seasons.

Here are some notable figures from those fundraising reports, which Texas congressional candidates submitted last month: 

Fundraising in Congressional District 23

At this point, fundraising remains the one clear metric in what is widely considered the state’s lone competitive federal race: the rematch for Texas’ 23rd Congressional district between U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, and former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.  

House members frequently write checks to colleagues from their own campaign coffers to boost more vulnerable colleagues, and Hurd's Republican friends lined up so far this year, writing checks totaling about $150,000 to the freshman. 

A third of those dollars came from 10 Texas Republicans, who contributed about $50,000 to Hurd. The contributions helped Hurd run up the fundraising score early on Gallego. Hurd raised $1.3 million this year and has about $850,000 in the bank. Gallego, who did not announce his candidacy until after the first fundraising quarter, has raised just over $400,000 this year and has about $300,000 in cash on hand.

Democrats are not ignoring Gallego, who was defeated by Hurd in 2014 after winning election to CD-23 in 2012. Twenty-six House Democrats contributed $49,000so far, with $7,000 coming from Texans. 

Babin, Veasey and Farenthold Ramp It Up

While there is a dearth of competitive general election races, a few Texans in safe seats are bracing for potential primary challenges.

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, raised a quarter of a million dollars in the third quarter and has close to $500,000 in cash on hand.

And House colleagues have shown that they want him back. Since Babin took office in January, House Republicans contributed $36,000 to his campaign. Those who gave included U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling of Dallas and Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock. 

Similarly, U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, could face a primary challenge and is stockpiling his money. Like Babin, he is closing in on nearly a half-million in cash on hand, after raising $150,000 this quarter. 

And then there is U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold. 

For nearly a year, accusations of sexual harassment dogged the Corpus Christi Republican's office. He has ramped up his campaign operation and fundraising, but legal fees are cutting into his ability to hold onto that money. He raised $150,000 this quarter and reported $132,000 in cash on hand.

U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, is the only delegation member with less cash on hand. Green is not expected to face a serious challenger.

During the third quarter, Farenthold burned through 150 percent of what he raised. In all, Farenthold has spent $80,000 on legal bills in the last year. 

Compared with Babin and Hurd, Farenthold has lukewarm support from House Republican colleagues. Early in the year, they threw in $12,000 toward his re-election, but contributions from members ceased altogether in the third quarter. 

None of these candidates has a rival who has either filed or shown an ability to build viable campaign infrastructures. Babin, Veasey and Farenthold could wake up Dec. 15 and have no race at all.

Senior Texas House Members Give Big 

Leadership in both parties asks members to pay "dues" each cycle. High-ranking members or those with choice committee assignments are expected to financially back his or her party's campaign efforts.

Vulnerable Republican House members across the country can continue to count on high-ranking Texans to deliver big money to their campaigns.

Seven Texas Republicans - U.S. Reps. Michael Burgess of Lewisville, Kay Granger of Fort Worth, Hensarling, Michael McCaul of Austin, Ted Poe of Humble, Sessions and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon - channeled $1.3 million either directly to colleagues or to the Republican House campaign arm over the course of this year.  

Two members, Hensarling, the Financial Services Committee chairman, and Thornberry, the Armed Services Committee chairman, surpassed $300,000 in contributions to the House campaign arms and to colleagues.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Gene Green of Houston function similarly in Democratic party politics. 

Each paid off the dues the party asked of all members — $200,000 for Cuellar and $250,000 for Green — according to internal party records obtained by the Texas Tribune.

Republicans Play in State Politics  

A pair of Dallas-Fort Worth-based members donated to opposing factions in the Texas Legislature. 

U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, gave $1,000 in August to conservative firebrand state Rep. Jonathan Stickland. Stickland’s home base of Bedford is on the southwest side of Marchant’s 24th Congressional District. 

In contrast, Granger’s pointed her donations to establishment Republicans. 

In particular, she donated $2,5000 to state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, who locked horns with Stickland during this year’s legislative session. Granger also gave another $1,000 to state House Speaker Joe Straus, a frequent target of Stickland’s. 

Granger additionally cut a $2,500 check to one of her constituents, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. That donation occurred in mid-July, the same time he was on a swing through Washington, D.C.

War Chests Both Large and Lacking

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, has the most money to unleash on any would-be opponent: $3.2 million — more cash on hand than any other Democrat in Congress.

In contrast, Al Green sits on the smallest cash on hand in the delegation, with $110,000. 

Thornberry had the strongest third quarter of the delegation. He raised $325,000, much of which — $150,000 — went to the House Republican campaign arm. 

When it comes to aggregate raising money this year, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, brought in the least: $98,000. Hurd raised the most over the last nine months, with a$1.3 million haul.

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