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Wendy Davis Raises Nearly $1 Million

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

State Sen. Wendy Davis, the new star of the Texas Democratic Party, raised nearly $1 million in the final two weeks of June, much of it from small donors who sent her money after she launched her famous filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill, her campaign will reveal Monday. 

According to figures that her campaign expects to report to the Texas Ethics Commission, the Fort Worth Democrat raised $933,000 between June 17 and June 30. Counting money left over from 2012, she ended the reporting period with more than $1 million in the bank.

Monday is the filing deadline for state candidates and political action committees to report contributions to the Texas Ethics Commission.

Davis, who is mulling a run for Texas governor in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994, said in an interview with The Texas Tribune last week that if she jumps into the governor’s race, her ability to raise enough money to run a competitive statewide race will be “a key question.”

“I think my chances of doing that have definitely improved, especially because we are seeing such a broad base of supporters,” Davis said. The 50-year-old lawyer, who would have to give up her state Senate seat to run for governor, said she will decide whether to stay put or go for it in the next few weeks.

Davis’ fundraising numbers fall far short of the amount being reported by the man she would most likely face in a November 2014 race: Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who announced his campaign for governor on Sunday and has emerged as the instant front-runner. Abbott reported raising $4.8 million for the same June 17-30 period and now has more than $20 million in the bank.

But Davis’ late June haul demonstrates that the senator has a base beyond the traditional big-name donors — and outside the state’s borders. About $580,000 of the money came from Texas, her campaign's figures show, meaning more than $300,000 came from somewhere else. She got a total of 15,290 separate donations, most of them under $250, and more than 13,000 of them were less than $50; of the contributions she received, some 4,900 were from Texas, figures compiled by her campaign indicate.

The fundraising reporting period only covers two weeks at the end of last month because lawmakers are barred from raising money just before and right after a regular Texas legislative session. The Legislature was in regular session for 140 days during the first half of the year. State candidates were able to raise money again as of June 17, the date marking the end of the period in which the governor can sign or veto bills from the regular session.

After that, lawmakers were back in special session, considering redistricting, the abortion restrictions and other matters. Special sessions don’t trigger fundraising bans as regular sessions do, but Davis said she was too busy to make any personal fundraising calls. The money rolled in anyway.

“Obviously I wasn’t able to do any fundraising because we were locked out during the session from doing that. And as soon as we finished that, here we were in special session,” she said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to pick up the phone and make a single fundraising call, which I typically would have spent some pretty intense time doing between the re-opening of that window and the filing deadline.”

Meanwhile, Battleground Texas, a Democratic group hoping to make Texas more hospitable to would-be statewide candidates like Davis, will report that it raised more than $1.1 million for since late February, officials said. Almost 80 percent of the money came from inside the state, officials said. The group, run by former organizers for President Obama, is focusing on voter registration and engagement in an effort to eventually put Texas — the only reliably Republican state where minorities are in the majority — in the Democratic column.

In other candidate fundraising news, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who is running for lieutenant governor in 2014, raised more than $1 million in contributions in the June 17-30 period from more than 100 of the state's 250 counties, according to a spokesman. Staples' report will show nearly $3 million cash on hand, the spokesman said.

Previously, state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, soon to be a candidate to succeed Abbott as attorney general, announced he raised about $1.75 million in the same time frame, bringing his cash on hand total to more than $4 million.

Morgan Smith contributed to this report.

Jay Root is a native of Liberty. He never knew any reporters growing up, and he has never taken a journalism class in his life. But somehow he got hooked on the news business. It all started when he walked into the offices of The Daily Texan, his college newspaper, during his last year at the University of Texas in 1987. He couldn't the resist the draw: it was the the biggest collection of misfits ever assembled. After graduating, he took a job at a Houston chemical company and realized it wasn't for him. Soon he was applying for an unpaid internship at the Houston Post in 1990, and it turned into a full-time job that same year. He has been a reporter ever since. He has covered natural disasters, live music and Texas politics — not necessarily in that order. He was Austin bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a dozen years, most of them good. He also covered politics and the Legislature for The Associated Press before joining the staff of the Tribune.
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