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Competitive statehouse races come to light in finance reports

A new wave of campaign finance reports is bringing into focus how competitive some state legislatives races are.

The Texas Capitol, May 15, 2015.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with information on an additional Texas House race.

There aren't many competitive Texas statehouse races this November, but a few are holding promise — at least when it comes to the dash for cash.

A new wave of campaign finance reports shows three Republican incumbents getting out-raised by a Democratic challenger over the summer, signaling a measure of drama in an otherwise boring cycle for legislative races. Released Wednesday, the reports cover the period from July 1 through Sept. 29. 

The tightest money race unfolded in San Antonio-area House District 117, where Democratic challenger Philip Cortez, a former state representative, narrowly out-raised GOP Rep. Rick Galindo roughly $107,000 to $101,000. The widest deficit was in Houston-area House District 144, where Republican Rep. Gilbert Peña's haul was a third of that of Democratic challenger Mary Ann Perez, another former state representative, about $27,000 to $74,000. 

The third race in which a Democratic challenger out-raised a Republican incumbent was in San Antonio-area House District 118. Democratic challenger Tomás Uresti took in roughly $16,000 to $14,000 for GOP Rep. John Lujan, who won the seat earlier this year in a special election. 

Fewer than a dozen state representatives are considered vulnerable this November, with most of the endangered incumbents being Republicans running for re-election in perennial swing districts. Those districts are concentrated in and around major cities where statewide candidates have beaten their opponents by fewer than 10 percentage points in past election cycles. 

The race that drew the most money over the summer was in Dallas-area House District 107, where Republican Rep. Kenneth Sheets is trying to fend off a challenge from Democrat Victoria Neave. He out-raised her by a margin of nearly 2-to-1, roughly $285,000 to $152,000. 

In five of the swing districts, Republican incumbents showed a strong financial advantage over their Democratic rivals. It was the most pronounced in Corpus Christi-area House District 43, where GOP Rep. J.M. Lozano took in nearly 12 times as much as Democratic challenger Marisa Yvette Garcia Utley did, about $150,000 to $13,000. 

While a majority of vulnerable GOP incumbents out-raised their Democratic challengers, they were also spending heavily to hold onto their seats. Lozano unloaded roughly $204,000 over the summer, burning through all of his haul for the period — and more.

While a majority of vulnerable GOP incumbents out-raised their Democratic challengers, they were also spending heavily to hold onto their seats.

Heading into the home stretch before Election Day, most of the endangered Republicans had far more cash on hand than their Democratic rivals. Again, the margin was the tightest in House District 117, where Galindo had about $40,000 in the bank to Cortez's $35,000, and the widest in House District 114, where Perez had roughly $58,000 in reserves to Peña's $26,000. 

In the one open-seat race viewed as potentially competitive — Killeen-area House District 54 — the Republican has a strong financial advantage. Scott Cosper raised approximately $76,000 to $5,000 for Democratic opponent Sandra Blankenship. 

Read more:

  • In May, Ross Ramsey provided an early guide to competitive races on the ballot this November in Texas.
  • Donald Trump is a central issue in the only competitive congressional contest this fall in the Lone Star State.

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Politics State government 2016 elections Texas Legislature