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Far Ahead of 2018, Some Statewide Officials Build Big War Chests

It may be the political offseason, but some statewide officials are already building sizable war chests with more than two years until they are up for re-election.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, l, applauds as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is introduced Feb. 17, 2015 prior to his State of the State speeā€¦

It may be the political offseason, but some statewide officials are already building sizable war chests with more than two years until they are up for re-election. 

Towering over the crowd is Gov. Greg Abbott, who has a whopping $28.6 million saved for re-election after raising $8.7 million during the first half of this year. That is according to campaign finance reports he and other Texas officials had to file with the state ethics commission by Friday.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also has well-padded coffers 27 months before he is on the ballot again. Patrick raised $2 million during the first six months of 2016 and has $9.3 million in the bank.

Perhaps most interestingly, it does not appear the legal problems dogging Attorney General Ken Paxton hampered his fundraising too much in the first half of this year. Paxton, who is fighting state and federal securities fraud charges, raised about $944,800 and has $3 million in cash on hand.

Paxton intends to run for re-election.

"Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a strong finance report and once again defied the expectations of his political opponents," Paxton spokesman Matt Welch said in a statement Friday. "His 'cash on hand' is a clear signal of his future plans and this report demonstrates the strength and support for General Paxton in Texas."

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who is under investigation by the Texas Rangers for alleged misuse of state funds, has by far the lowest cash-on-hand figure of the top six statewide officials: $63,116. That comes after taking in roughly $123,700 during the first six months of this year and spending about $114,900.

Two other statewide officials turned in reports showing healthy war chests: Land Commissioner George P. Bush ($3 million) and Comptroller Glenn Hegar ($3.3 million). Bush raked in about $388,500 in over the period, while Hegar took in approximately $261,000. 

The reports filed Friday also reveal a who's who of Texas Republican donors backing statewide officials. Abbott's haul, for example, was powered by 19 six-digit contributions, including four from donors who gave $250,000 each: Midland oilman Javaid Anwar, Houston Texans owner Robert McNair, Walmart heiress Alice Walton and Paul Foster, chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents.

Patrick's top individual donors were Fort Worth insurance executive Al Boenker, Gulf States Toyota founder Thomas Friedkin and Houston road contractor James Pitcock. Each gave $100,000. 

Paxton's biggest single contributions, meanwhile, came from Houston engineer James Dannenbaum and Cisco fracking billionaire Farris Wilks, who each gave $50,000. Wilks gave a second donation in the amount of $25,000.

Disclosure: Javaid Anwar, Paul Foster, James Pitcock, the University of Texas System and Gulf States Toyota have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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