Governor Greg Abbott made headlines recently with his endorsement of Susanna Dokupil, the Houston-area businesswoman challenging incumbent State Representative Sarah Davis.
While Abbott has gotten involved in primary races before, it’s usually to give his stamp of approval to incumbent legislators he believes should return to Austin. Rarely, if ever, does a sitting governor endorse against an incumbent member of his or her own party.
Davis is a key player on Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ leadership team, a group Abbott chided for stonewalling conservative reforms he deemed a priority during the recent 85th Legislative Session and subsequent Special Session. Davis’ role on the Calendars Committee appears especially concerning to Abbott and conservatives, as she has proudly supported the committee’s ability to stall and kill reforms.
Abbott’s decision to go against a member of his own party sends a clear message: stand in the way of conservative legislation and become a target.
What isn’t clear yet is how donors will respond to Abbott’s decision. Some of Abbott’s largest financial supporters are prominent Houston-area donors, many of which have also supported Davis in past elections. What will they do now that Abbott has openly targeted Davis?
Below is a list of some of Davis’ most prominent donors since 2015, and a breakdown of how much they gave to her and to Abbott.
|Notable donations to Since January 1, 2015|
|Patrick & Susan Rutherford||$16,700||$0|
|John L. Nau, III||$10,000||$264,310.02|
|James & Shirley Dannenbaum||$5,500||$75,000|
|Tilman & Paige Fertitta||$3,500||$250,000|
Nearly all options for Houston-area donors are risky. Side with Abbott by supporting Dokupil and they might end up on the wrong side of their representative in the Texas House should Davis win reelection. Donate to Davis and the Governor’s office might no longer take their phone calls. Stay out of the race altogether and possibly wind up on the wrong side of both Abbott and Davis. Time will tell how these donors decide to proceed.
The race between Davis and Dokupil is just beginning, but Abbott’s involvement and endorsement means this will be one of the most closely-watched races of the 2018 election cycle.
Our Race to Raise series takes a deeper look at the most high-profile races of the election cycle, focusing specifically on money raised by those seeking to serve in public office. Stay tuned for the next installment.