Texas State Senate District 30 has captured the attention of political spectators across the entire state, as two candidates with markedly different backgrounds vie for the seat in a special runoff election. Early voting began December 9 for the December 19 election.
Seasoned House Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster), a seven-year incumbent member of the legislature’s lower chamber, faces off against businesswoman and Republican activist Shelley Luther. Luther gained national notoriety earlier this year when she was jailed for defying both Gov. Greg Abbott and Dallas County officials who sought to close her hair salon after deeming it a “non-essential” business.
With the resignation of now-former State Senator Pat Fallon, who was appointed to fill a vacant congressional seat, the opening of Fallon’s senate seat resulted in a special election to fill the seat in October.
The data from the Texas Secretary of State shows that Luther eked out a 115-vote lead (or 0.17 percent), with 22,242 votes over Springer’s 22,127. No candidate won a sufficient percentage to win outright, sending the race into a special December 19 runoff.
The storyline of a longtime Austin politician forcing a runoff against a political newcomer known for refusing lockdown orders continues to create headlines beyond the district. But what does the money show us about each candidates’ advantages in this race?
Here’s a side-by-side look at the campaign finance data for both candidates’ campaigns to date.
|Totals||Shelley Luther (R)||Drew Springer (R)|
|Total Money Raised||$1,187,282.00||$1,024,498.00|
|Total Number of Donors||280||606|
|Total Number of Lenders||2||0|
|Total Money Raised In-District||$11,270.00||$106,280.00|
|Total Number of Donations From In-District||83||213|
|Percentage Raised From In-District||7.8%||10.37%|
|Total Money Raised Outside District||$127,243.22||$861,367.58|
|Total Number of Donations Raised Outside District||152||490|
|Percentage Raised From Outside District||88.14%||65.86%|
|Percentage of Unknown||3.42%||5.54%|
Luther leads Springer by $162,784 in overall capital raised, but a closer inspection of the data paints a clearer picture of the numbers in each candidate’s favor. They type and source of donations, as well as the campaign’s overall spending power all inform a candidate’s ability to turn out votes on Election Day.
The bulk of Luther’s funding came from loans to her campaign, while Springer’s campaign is financed completely by donor contributions. Contributions are monetary donations to campaigns that do not need to be paid back. Loans must be repaid. Although candidates are able to pay them off using future campaign contributions, loans cannot be counted as donations. If a loan is forgiven, it must then be counted as an in-kind contribution.
Luther’s campaign cash skyrocketed from less than $150,000 to over $1.18 million with a $1 million loan from Midland oilman and Republican donor Tim Dunn in September. That loan, along with a combined $41,660.00 in loans from Luther’s husband, Tim Georgeff, tipped the cash advantage in her favor.
While Springer’s donor count is more than double what Luther has (606 compared to 280), both candidates receive a large majority of their funding from sources outside of the district. Within Senate District 30, where donor numbers can often be a helpful tool in predicting voter turnout, Luther received only 83 donations compared to Springer’s 213.
Luther’s recent media attention and Springer’s years of experience in Austin and endorsement by Governor Abbott may explain the outsized financial contributions from beyond the district.
Springer significantly outspent Luther heading into the October election. Even with $333,382 more in expenditures, Springer was not able to secure a special election victory. He narrowly trailed Luther by 0.17 percent, pushing the election to a runoff. Springer’s cost per vote was $44.26, while Luther’s was $29.04. This gives Luther a cash-on-hand advantage over Springer heading into next week’s race.
Luther’s single largest source of funding is the out-of-district loan from Tim Dunn. In direct contributions, Luther’s largest donation was $100,000 from Farris and Joann Wilks, an energy industry family who are well-known Republican donors. Likewise, Springer’s single largest contributor, Javaid Anwar, is another Midland oil man and prominent Republican donor. Anwar donated $100,000 to Springer’s campaign.
Springer’s top ten donors list features prominent Texas PACs, including Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the Charles Butt Public Education Political Action Committee, the Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Realtors PAC, and the Texas Association of Business PAC. In contrast, to date, all of Luther’s donations and loans come from individuals rather than PACs.
Detailed information on each candidate’s financial position is available on Transparency USA. See Luther’s entire campaign finance profile, including donor and lender information here. Springer’s complete financial profile, including all donors, can be found here.
As Election Day approaches for the Senate District 30 runoff, the candidates are required to file daily reports to the Texas Ethics Commission beginning December 11. With the release of new data, a more complete financial picture for each candidate will continue to develop. Transparency USA will continue to bring you the latest data in this race as soon as it becomes available.