The Texas Senate race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison is occurring in two primaries within the GOP primary (the Democratic primary being, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant). There’s the big money primary, featuring former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (the latter an undeclared candidate, at least until the legislative session ends). And there’s the grassroots primary, featuring former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams.
Leppert’s camp leaked to the Politico that they’re hauling in big cash so far.
Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert reeled in $1.1 million during the first five weeks of his Senate campaign, an impressive figure that plants a marker in the crowded GOP primary.
A personal donation of $1.6 million gives Leppert $2.6 million cash on hand to begin the five-way Republican race for Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat.
That’s encouraging if you’re a Leppert fan, but it’s not likely to matter much. Outside of Dallas, which has gone liberal and is where most of Leppert’s money is coming from, his name recognition is negligible. The party faithful either don’t know him or don’t like him. And in the big money primary, nothing matters until Dewhurst, the billionaire, actually steps in. Dewhurst will presumably be coming off of a successful session in Austin, for which as the president of the state Senate, the Lt. Gov. will be able to claim a great deal of credit. Dewhurst is a veteran statewide campaigner and money-raiser. He has a formidable and professional machine in place, gassed up and ready to roll on his signal. And he’s been a solid Lt. Gov., generally liked by most of the party (and he’s fluent in Spanish, which won’t hurt). On the other hand, Leppert’s decision to run for Senate left Dallas in the hands of Mayor Dwaine Caraway. Leppert personally saw to it that Caraway succeeded him. A bit of vetting might have helped: Leppert did not leave Big D in good hands, at all.
Meanwhile, the grassroots primary combatants haven’t said much about fundraising so far. Both camps are probably waiting on the other to go public first. I don’t have a guess as to which one, Cruz or Williams, will have raised the most. We should know in a week or so. Whichever one can show healthier numbers will definitely have an inside track to win the grassroots primary, and in spite of his fundraising numbers, probably end up in a stronger position than Leppert may think he enjoys.