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Davis raises $1 million, BGTX raises $1.1 million

Considering she had only two weeks to do it, that’s not too shabby.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

State Sen. Wendy Davis, the new star of the Texas Democratic Party, raised nearly $1 million in the final two weeks of June, much of it from small donors who sent her money after she launched her famous filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill, her campaign will reveal Monday.

According to figures that her campaign expects to report to the Texas Ethics Commission, the Fort Worth Democrat raised $933,000 between June 17 and June 30. Counting money left over from 2012, she ended the reporting period with more than $1 million in the bank.

Monday is the filing deadline for state candidates and political action committees to report contributions to the Texas Ethics Commission.

Davis, who is mulling a run for Texas governor in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994, said in an interview with The Texas Tribune last week that if she jumps into the governor’s race, her ability to raise enough money to run a competitive statewide race will be “a key question.”

“I think my chances of doing that have definitely improved, especially because we are seeing such a broad base of supporters,” Davis said. The 50-year-old lawyer, who would have to give up her state Senate seat to run for governor, said she will decide whether to stay put or go for it in the next few weeks.

Davis’ fundraising numbers fall far short of the amount being reported by the man she would most likely face in a November 2014 race: Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who announced his campaign for governor on Sunday and has emerged as the instant front-runner. Abbott reported raising $4.8 million for the same June 17-30 period and now has more than $20 million in the bank.

But Davis’ late June haul demonstrates that the senator has a base beyond the traditional big-name donors — and outside the state’s borders. About $580,000 of the money came from Texas, her campaign’s figures show, meaning more than $300,000 came from somewhere else. She got a total of 15,290 separate donations, most of them under $250, and more than 13,000 of them were less than $50; of the contributions she received, some 4,900 were from Texas, figures compiled by her campaign indicate.

I suspect that there were several trucks filled with cash that had been sitting outside Greg Abbott’s door since January, just waiting for the go ahead to dump their loads into his coffers. I also suspect that had it not been for the #StandWithWendy phenomenon, Sen. Davis’ haul would have been considerably less. In fact, for the 2009 July semi-annual, she reported raising no money, and for the 2011 semi-annual, when she faced re-election the following fall as she does this year, she raised $18K. So yeah, this time was different. (Abbott, by comparison, raised $1.5 million in 2011 and $1.1 million in 2009, so this wasn’t all that much out of the ordinary for him.) If the question that was to be answered is whether or not she could raise statewide-quality money, I say this is a clear affirmative.

Not that there isn’t a counter-narrative available, because of course there is. There always is when it looks like something positive has happened for Texas Democrats.

Experts say any serious contender going toe-to-toe with Abbott will need to raise and spend in the neighborhood of nearly double the amount the attorney general is currently sitting on.

“The big problem state Democrats have faced is even when people get excited they don’t reach for their wallets,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “As she looks at the possibility of making a run for governor, I think Wendy Davis will draw back because I don’t think she sees the possibility of raising $30 million or $40 million.”

To boost her campaign coffers, Davis is planning to hit the Washington, D.C., fundraising circuit next week for a $500-a-head breakfast that includes a long list of invited Democratic U.S. senators, the Washington Examiner reported Monday.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, a GOP candidate for governor, has $20 million-plus on hand.

Those types of events will undoubtedly provide Davis with quick and bountiful cash injections, and will introduce her to a crowd of well-heeled national Democrats.

However, Mark Jones, chairman of political science at Rice University, cautions that of out-of-state shindigs also could be prime fodder for her opponents.

“If she does that too much, it just feeds into a negative attack ad,” Jones said. “She can do some that, but there has to be balance. You don’t want somebody to bring out statistics saying 70 percent of her money comes from out of state.”

Did we mention that she raised a million bucks in two stinking weeks? Yes, of course it will take a lot more than that to win statewide, but that’s a pretty decent pace at which to start out. And honestly, do we think the Republicans would find themselves scrambling for attack material if all her money had come from inside the state? Please. Can we just say it was an impressive accomplishment and leave it at that? Sheesh.

Anyway. In other news:

Meanwhile, Battleground Texas, a Democratic group hoping to make Texas more hospitable to would-be statewide candidates like Davis, will report that it raised more than $1.1 million for since late February, officials said. Almost 80 percent of the money came from inside the state, officials said. The group, run by former organizers for President Obama, is focusing on voter registration and engagement in an effort to eventually put Texas — the only reliably Republican state where minorities are in the majority — in the Democratic column.

That seems like a decent haul to me, though Trail Blazers characterizes it as “modest”. I certainly got emails from BGTX asking for contributions, but I didn’t get the impression that they were focusing on fundraising. Theirs is a different mission, since they are not in the office-seeking business themselves. They need to pay their own bills and demonstrate their long-term viability, and unless someone has evidence to the contrary I’d say they’ve done that. What this says to me is that the money is there. We need to keep it up and show some demonstrable results next year, but we should have the resources to make that happen.

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