By one important measure, it’s a lot better.
The financial success of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White has revealed a new generation of wealthy contributors who are stepping forward to back Texas Democratic candidates.
White’s campaign has been able to compete with Republican Gov. Rick Perry in head-to-head fundraising, and Democratic leaders are crediting an aggressive plan implemented five years ago after Republicans took control of all branches of state government.
“Bill White has been able to raise more money from the business community than Democrats have raised in 20 years,” said Ben Barnes, a prominent lobbyist, former lieutenant governor and one-time leader of the state’s conservative Democrats. “It’s kind of a revival of the trust and confidence that the business community used to have in the Democratic Party.”
Money also are coming in from small donors. Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Maxwell said his committee was having some of its best successes in drawing small donations of $50 to $500.
“There was a time when it was virtually impossible to raise money for the local county party. Now, I’m raising money all the time and raising far more money to fund our party efforts than we’ve ever done in the past,” he said.
White has certainly done very well in the fundraising department; as noted before, we haven’t seen anything like that in well over a decade. To whatever extent that’s helping county party organizations such as in Tarrant, that’s a big deal, too. The HCDP has seen a lot of activity and excitement this year, but it’s been doing pretty well since 2008. And I’m sure the various PACs that contribute to Democratic candidates are doing well. The story doesn’t examine that, but it’s not hard to believe that the HDCC, the TTLA, and Annie’s List are all in better shape this year than they were in 2006. Would have been nice to see some numbers in the story, though.
Tapping into that “new generation” of donors, who one presumes now believe their contributions can make a difference, is a critical step forward. Again, though, a little more context would help. I remember reading a similar story about new Democratic donors in 2008. What are they doing this year? I can tell you that one of the driving forces behind that Blue Texas group (whose website domain registration they apparently let lapse) has been quiet over the past year; according to the TEC, since July of 2009 Alexa Wesner has given $2500 to Moving Wilco Forward, $1000 to Annie’s List, and $1500 to the Travis County Democratic Party. The other person I know of who was behind that effort is John Thornton, who has since turned his attention to other things. It’s a fair question to ask how much progress has been made on this front.
Finally, not to put too fine a point on it but White’s fundraising success has not trickled down to other statewide candidates. Maybe that doesn’t matter so much – maybe having White at the top of the ticket will lift all boats, and maybe it isn’t worth the bother to try to match Dewhurst and Abbott and their millions. All I know is I’d like to see more across the board prowess before I see this as much more than the power of a single candidate.