Even though it is still very early in 2018, the Texas election season is quickly heating up.  The March primary elections are only a few months away, and we are seeing a lot of activity in certain races.  The Texas Lobby Group, THLA’s outside lobbying firm, has this update for your politically-minded hoteliers.

Emerging from the lull of the holiday break, the 2018 election cycle is in full swing with the March primaries less than two months away. The cash on hand semiannual reports were due for candidates and state officeholders last Tuesday and with that there were a few surprising reports, but not many. Cash on hand is an important indicator in local races, as reliable independent polling data is not typically available.

Texas’ top statewide officeholders, Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, all boast significant cash on hand totals. Governor Abbott’s war chest ballooned to over $43 million, holding more funds than all 12 of his challengers combined. The closest gubernatorial candidate in terms of cash on hand is Democrat Andrew White, son of the late Governor Mark White, at $104,475. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick holds more than $18 million in funds, an exponential amount more than his opponents combined. Lastly, Attorney General Ken Paxton reported $5.7 million in his reelection campaign, nearly 10 times more than his Democratic opponent, Justin Nelson.

Other notable statewide primary races include:

Land Commissioner:  

Commissioner George P. Bush faces former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson in March. While Patterson has been an outspoken critic of current Land Commissioner George P. Bush for his response to Hurricane Harvey and preservation of the Alamo, Patterson only holds $95,452 in cash on hand. George P. Bush reported over $3 million.

Agriculture Commissioner:

Commissioner Sid Miller faces attorney Trey Blocker in the primary election. In one of the closest statewide primary races, sitting Commissioner Miller reported $401, 954 in cash on hand while Blocker reported $487,363. Of note, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently endorsed Sid Miller in his bid for reelection.

Railroad Commission (1 of 3 seats up):

Chairman Christi Craddick faces San Antonio resident Weston Martinez this March. Martinez previously ran for Railroad Commissioner in 2016 but lost garnering only 10% of the vote. Commissioner Craddick reported $2.6 million, while Martinez holds a meager $2,700.

In the Texas Senate and House, several Republican primary races will serve as a litmus test of Texas voters appetite for moderate or more socially conservative candidates.

SD 30 – Sen. Craig Estes v. Pat Fallon

State Sen. Craig Estes will face Pat Fallon, who vacated his seat in the Texas House to run for Senator Craig Estes’ seat. Estes has held the seat since 2000, but will face his toughest opponent this year in socially conservative, Empower Texans endorsed Pat Fallon. As of this January, Fallon reported $1.4 million in cash on hand, which includes a personal loan of $1.8 million in June 2017, while Estes reported only $577,581.

SD 31 – Sen. Kel Seliger v. Mike Canon/Victor Leal

State Sen. Kel Seliger will face Midland businessman Mike Canon and Amarillo restauranteur Victor Leal. Senate District 31 contains large swaths of the panhandle, and encompasses many rural towns and counties. In the past, Senator Seliger has been somewhat of an outlier in the socially conservative Texas Senate, voting against school choice and laws that would diminish local control. Empower Texans endorsed candidate Canon reported $132, 509, former Texas Public Policy Foundation board member Leal reported $46,693, while Senator Seliger reported $1.7 million in cash on hand.

HD 134 – Rep. Sarah Davis v. Susanna Dokupil

State Rep. Sarah Davis draws Empower Texans backed opponent Susanna Dokupil, a Harvard Law School graduate. Highlighting the significance of this race, Governor Abbott has endorsed Dokupil in her bid to unseat Rep. Davis. House District 134 includes West University, a socially moderate area of Houston. It will be interesting to see whether voters in that district will reelect Rep. Davis or heed Governor Abbott’s endorsement.

HD 23 – Rep. Wayne Faircloth v. Mayes Middleton

State Rep. Faircloth will face conservative activist, and Empower Texans endorsed Mayes Middleton. Governor Abbott is also involved in this race, endorsing Middleton for House District 23. Middleton reported having $480,000 cash on hand (mostly from a personal loan to his campaign), while Faircloth reported $156,000.

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