The Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee raised more than $1.3 million from January to June, surpassing all its fundraising in the 2018 cycle, when Democrats picked up 12 seats.
Jul 8, 2020
AUSTIN — The Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee announced Wednesday that it had raised $1.3 million in the first six months of this year — a record haul for the group, which is focused on flipping the Republican-dominated chamber.
The six-month total has already bested the group’s previous record of $1.145 million from the entire 2018 cycle, when Democrats flipped 12 seats in the Texas House. The momentum has the group’s leaders confident about Democratic prospects in November, when they need to gain nine more seats to take control.
The six-month tally still trails the GOP’s take by millions.
“Your political antennae would have to be broken to not understand that this year is a big damn year,” said state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, the committee’s chairwoman. “So many years of Democrats not having the ability to control the agenda. This is our opportunity to make history. Wherever you are on election night, make sure you’re somewhere within the boundaries of Texas. This is going to be exciting and I’m channeling all that energy so people will know this is doable, this is real, this is Texas history.”
For many years, Israel said, Texas was seen as an ATM where candidates from other states would come to raise money that they would carry away to coastal states. This year, 90% of the donations in her group’s six-month report are from inside the state, showing that Texans now consider state politics competitive again. The group received money from more than 8,500 individual donors, for an average small-dollar donation of $34.
“It’s heartwarming to see that we have 8,500 individual donors who continue to believe,” she said. “I’m hopeful they’ll continue to be in touch with the news and hopeful they’ll give again between now and election night.”
The campaign committee’s record is the latest in a string of fundraising successes for Democrats in the state. In June, the Texas Democratic Party broke its daily and monthly digital fundraising records by taking in $1.5 million during its weeklong virtual convention.
Nationally, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a group dedicated to helping Democrats win seats in state legislatures, announced Tuesday that it had raised $5.8 million in its second quarter of fundraising, exceeding by nearly $2 million its previous record for that quarter, set in 2018. In April, the same group had reported breaking its first-quarter record by raising $6.4 million.
Democrats aren’t the only ones raking in record sums. The Republican State Leadership Committee announced last week that it had raised $10.5 million with its partner, the State Government Leadership Foundation, in the second quarter, also a record.
The Republican committee recently announced the addition of longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove and former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus to its board of directors, emphasizing the importance of Texas to this year’s elections.
“We’re in agreement that Texas is a battleground, and we’re all in to make sure we protect the Statehouse there and maintain the majority,” Austin Chambers, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, said in June. “We’re optimistic about what’s going to happen down there.”
Israel has joked that “you don’t dust off Karl Rove” if things are going well.
“The Democrats are doing something right if we have woken up those who normally would be fixated on national politics and gotten them to pay attention in Texas,” she said. “I take it as not a threat but reassurance.”
She’s also aware that while Democrats are emboldened by recent giving, Republicans have long-standing donors they can turn to when the going gets tough. She doesn’t want to fight on those grounds.
“Our Republican friends have deep pockets and a history in this state,” she said. “But I think we have our own sense of pride. We are the party of Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards, and we will draw upon that and make sure our friends know that Texas is trendy, Texas is sexy, and keep your money here.”
Israel said she wants the campaign to focus on the diversity of Democratic candidates and their longtime issues that she believes the pandemic has brought to the forefront. Those include expansion of Medicaid and changing the police and criminal justice system.
She said she thinks people who are stuck at home because of COVID-19 are thinking about the same issues and putting their money behind those thoughts.
“They are coming from a position of being frustrated that the state that they love is not being represented correctly,” she said. “We have Republicans who seem too eager to cater to a fringe element of the electorate rather than what we’re witnessing — a couple of dozen [Democratic] candidates who are not running an anti-Trump campaign, they’re running pro-Texas campaigns, that revolve around Texas families who are struggling in the pandemic and whose health care is tied to the people they work for.”
The Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee will use the money raised in the first six months to make sure candidates are able to get their messages out — something Israel admits was lacking in previous election cycles. The group does not get involved in primary fights between Democrats, but once the July 14 runoff winners are declared, it plans to round out its giving to those candidates. When that’s done, it will have contributed half a million dollars to 29 candidates for the year to that point.
“The goal of HDCC is to fill in the gaps and be there for every candidate who is hustling and making connections with voters,” she said. “They sometimes just need that extra financial lift to do that extra campaign mailer. We will be mission control.”
Israel, who got started in Texas politics as an aide on Gov. Ann Richards’ election campaign, knows that Democrats have promised victory multiple times over the last two decades only to come up empty-handed. But this year, she said, things are different.
“Our political timing is unique. Redistricting is around the corner, it’s a presidential year [and] the man who holds the office doesn’t seem to care about bringing people together,” she said. “We keep saying every two-year cycle, ‘This is the year.’ This time we really, really mean it.”