The amount of power or influence wielded by a particular elected official is not based solely on the office he or she holds. Often the strongest indicator of political staying power is the amount of money a politician has in the bank. Like it or not, money talks, especially in politics. The more money, the larger the megaphone. A quick look at how much campaign cash sits in the bank accounts of elected officials can tell voters a great deal about that politician’s concerns. Does a legislator have so much money that he or she is not worried about anyone challenging them in the next election, thus leading them to ignore their constituents? Conversely, is an elected official so strapped for cash that he or she is willing to sell out to lobbyists who promise to fund the next reelection campaign?
Here’s a look at the top ten elected officials with the most cash on hand so far in the 2018 election cycle:
1. Governor Greg Abbott: ($40,831,160.71) The Republican Governor of Texas’ war chest far surpasses every other elected official in the state. With no serious Democrat opponent for his 2018 reelection bid in sight, many Austin politicos are wondering what Gov. Abbott will do with all that money. Will he “share the wealth,” so to speak, by helping other Republicans in the upcoming March primary elections, or will he hold onto that money in case a viable Democrat emerges to challenge him? With that much cash on hand, he could have serious impact on elections across the state: it’s the $40 million question.
2. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick: ($16,320,015.68) During his tenure as the presiding officer of the Texas Senate, Lt. Gov. Patrick has undoubtedly moved the state’s upper chamber to the right. Despite this fact, some of his largest contributors are well known political donors who are apparently motivated more by political access or business interests than ideological bent. The most surprising contribution thus far is $125,000 from Border Health PAC, a group that works almost exclusively with Democrats. From the size of his campaign war chest, it appears Lt. Gov. Patrick is proving a staunch conservative can still secure large contributions from all ends of the political spectrum — particularly when that conservative is as powerful and influential as Lt. Gov Patrick.
3. House Speaker Joe Straus: ($9,959,464.97) For Democrats and liberal Republicans, Speaker Joe Straus appears to be the last line of defense against a tidal wave of conservative reforms pushed by Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick. It should come as no surprise that many of the most well-known moderate and liberal political donors are giving money to the Speaker. Ensuring he has enough cash on hand to defend himself against a challenge from his own district, and possibly protecting some of Straus’ closest allies must seem like a worthwhile investment for donors like James Pitcock, Jeff Hildebrand, John Nau, and others, particularly if it means Speaker Straus can maintain the status quo in Austin.
4. State Senator John Whitmire: ($7,947,999.25) State Sen. Whitmire is the longest-serving current state senator, and thus often referred to as the “Dean” of the Texas Senate. Entering the Texas House of Representatives in 1972 at just twenty-three years of age, State Sen. Whitmire’s capitol roots run deep; a fact reflected by his cash on hand. While it might seem unusual to find a Democrat in the top 10, let alone the top 5, list of elected officials with the most cash on hand in Texas, in Sen Whitmire’s case, it should come as no surprise. He occupies a district in which he is virtually unbeatable, and he has built relationships with nearly everyone in the Capitol during his four decades in Austin.
5. Attorney General Ken Paxton: ($5,270,565.09) Despite legal issues continuing to swirl around him, Attorney Gen. Paxton appears to be doing quite well on the fundraising front. The Republican Attorneys General Association gave him $100,000 on the most recent report, making them his largest supporter of the current cycle. Prominent donors like Farris & JoAnn Wilks, Dan & Staci Wilks, Kenny Trout, and Darwin Deason also wrote sizable checks to Attorney Gen. Paxton.
6. Comptroller Glenn Hegar: ($4,555,419.10) The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and former state senator boasts an impressive amount of campaign cash for arguably the most “behind the scenes” statewide official in Texas. Comptroller Hegar has kept a relatively low profile in his role as the money-man in Austin. This fact, coupled with how accurate his revenue estimates have been thus far, are likely key reasons why people are willing to support him financially even though he doesn’t appear to have a viable Democrat challenger.
7. Commissioner George P. Bush: ($2,840,752.91) Having the most well-known name in Texas politics appears to be working well for Texas’ current Land Commissioner. Donors from across the state, many with no clear stake in the day-to-day workings of the General Land Office, continue to support Commissioner Bush financially even though he has no clear election challenger on the horizon. Perhaps they are investing in a man they believe will run for a higher statewide office soon. It also seems that the Bush name still holds sway in other parts of the country as his largest donor, William Becker, hails from outside Texas.
8. Phillip Huffines: ($2,356,109.23) The only candidate who has not yet held elected office on the top ten list is Dallas businessman Phillip Huffines. Part of the Huffines’ family network of car dealerships and home developments, Mr. Huffines is looking to join his identical twin brother, State Senator Don Huffines, in the Texas Senate. Mr. Huffines lands at number eight mainly due to a $2,000,000 loan to himself, and it’s likely he’s willing to invest even more of his own resources to secure a state senate seat. Despite the ability to self-fund his campaign, Mr. Huffines has received donations from some of the biggest political donors in the Metroplex, including Andrew Beal, Monty Bennett, and Darwin Deason.
9. State Representative Todd Hunter: ($2,326,146.74) Not surprisingly, this Democrat-turned-Republican from Corpus Christi lands in the top ten with the most campaign cash. Why? Because State Rep. Hunter serves as Chairman of the very-powerful House Committee on Calendars. Every single piece of legislation must pass through his hands before it can receive a vote in the Texas House of Representatives. No wonder people want to invest in him. Moreover, he has not had an opponent since the 2008 general election. Being the gatekeeper for all legislation, plus not having to spend money on a campaign in ten years is a perfect formula for netting and keeping a pile of cash in the bank.
10. Commissioner Christi Craddick: ($2,034,617.89) As Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, Christi Craddick is arguably the most powerful name in Texas energy. With deep roots in Texas politics thanks to her father’s time as Speaker of the Texas House, Commissioner Craddick is no stranger to the state’s largest political donors. Having grown up in Midland, her relationships run deep in energy-rich West Texas, but her network of financial supporters spreads across the state. Even with no viable opponent to her reelection on the radar, donors continue to support Commissioner Craddick at remarkably high levels.
List last updated: September 19, 2017
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.