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Here’s How The Top Democratic Presidential Candidates Are Faring In The Race For Texas Donors

Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune
Presidential candidates Beto O'Rourke and Julián Castro."

Texas has long been a red state. But with the vast amount of money here — and with many predicting a new level of competitiveness — it’s still an important place for the Democratic presidential candidates.

That’s especially true for the two Texas natives vying for the presidency, Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke.

To take a look at who is winning the money race in Texas, we reviewed numbers from the Federal Election Commission and ActBlue, the Democratic fundraising platform.

This is only a partial picture of each candidates’ donors. Federal law doesn’t require candidates to disclose individual donors who give less than $200, meaning the sources of millions of dollars in contributions to both campaigns aren’t reported. The vast majority of those small-dollar donations come in through ActBlue, which does the name and location of all donors. We were able to review those ActBlue donations through the midpoint of this year, but information about donations from the second half of the year won't be available until 2020.

Here’s what we found:

How much did the candidates raise overall?

According to filings the two Texans in the race submitted to the Federal Election Commission, O’Rourke raised $4.5 million nationwide in the third quarter of this year, while Castro received $3.5 million. Both raised more than their previous hauls, but fell far behind their Democratic rivals in the overall money race.

Between Jan. 1, 2019 and June 1, 2019, O’Rourke raised roughly $13 million. (He formally launched his White House bid in mid-March.) Castro, by comparison, received around $3.9 million during the first half of the year, though he entered the presidential arena months prior.

U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., raised $36.2 million and $25.2 million, respectively, during the first six months of 2019. (Sanders announced his presidential bid on Feb. 19, while Warren did so on Feb. 9.) Those two candidates had stellar hauls for the third fundraising quarter. Sanders raised $28 million, while Warren earned nearly $25 million.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised $32.3 million in the first six months of the year. He raised over $19.2 million in the latest quarter. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who announced his 2020 run in April, raised $22 million in the second quarter and $15.7 million in the third, according to his FEC filing.


Who has raised the most in Texas?

O’Rourke has received the most Texas money: $5.9 million in the first two fundraising quarters. Fifty-nine percent of O’Rourke’s haul came from small-dollar donors.

His numbers aren’t too surprising. O’Rourke proved during his nationally watched Senate race against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz last year he can easily rake in eye-popping amounts of money from fellow Texans. (Last year, he received over $80 million compared to Cruz’s $39 million.)

Following O’Rourke, the candidates, in order, who raised the most from Texas donors are Sanders at $1.4 million, Castro and Buttigieg who are tied at $1.1 million, Biden at $1 million and, lastly, Warren at $847,920.

Of those six candidates, Sanders received the most from small-dollar donors. A majority of Biden’s haul, meanwhile, came from high-dollar donors who gave $201 or more.

We won’t be able to assess how much each candidate received from Texas donors in the latest fundraising quarter until ActBlue Texas releases its itemized data for the last half of the year around January 2020.

Where are the two Texans in the race getting the most in-state support?

Unsurprisingly, most of O’Rourke’s monetary support from Texas donors in the first two fundraising quarters came from his hometown of El Paso. Outside of El Paso, he has received the most support from donors in Austin and Houston zip codes.

Castro has also seen the bulk of his in-state support come from his hometown, San Antonio. Three San Antonio zip codes — 78209, 78212 and 78230 — gave him a combined $95,224.85 during the first six months of the year.


How has Castro’s and O’Rourke’s fundraising gone since entering the race?

O’Rourke announced in March that he raised $6.1 million for his presidential campaign in his first 24 hours as a candidate. About $2.8 million of that haul came from Texas, according to a Texas Tribune analysis.

Since then, his fundraising has gone downhill.

O’Rourke raised $3.6 million overall in the second quarter, a disappointing figure after he entered the race with high expectations. His second best day was the day after his campaign announcement, when he raised nearly $335,000. He raised another $551,552 from Texas donors in the last two days of March.

Surprisingly, O’Rourke also raised a significant sum of money from Texas donors on June 30 — three days after his noticeably rocky performance in the first Democratic presidential primary debate and two days before he hosted a campaign event in Austin.

The best in-state fundraising day for Castro, meanwhile, paled in comparison to O’Rourke’s worst day. The former U.S. Housing Secretary raised the most money — $107,258 — on March 28.

He raised a substantial amount of money from Texans immediately after his well-reviewed debate performance in Miami — earning $56,979 the day of the debate and $51,615 three days later. Almost 40% of Castro’s overall second quarter haul came in the days after the Miami debate, campaign spokesman Sawyer Hackett previously told the Tribune.

The five best fundraising dates for O’Rourke nationally are identical to his five best in-state fundraising days. Castro, meanwhile, had most of his top five national fundraising days for the second quarter in the days after the June 26 debate: He collected $323,141 on June 27, $196,674 on June 28, $186,194 on June 29 and $237,669 on June 30.

How seriously are the top tier candidates taking Texas?

Texas could be key to helping the Democratic candidates clinch their party's nomination — even if they don't win the state’s primary.

Democrats have shown signs of understanding that dynamic and have already held a bevy of town halls, fundraisers and forums throughout the state. The growing spotlight on Texas this cycle was its brightest yet when 10 candidates took the stage last monthin Houston for the third primary debate.

Non-Texas candidates aren’t ceding any ground to the state’s native sons: U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., held campaign events in Houston and Tarrant County in March. Warren recently held a town hall in Austin and hired a Texas state director earlier this month. Some other campaigns have regional staffers, both based in Texas and elsewhere, that focus on groups of states including Texas. For example, Buttigieg has a regional organizing director, Michelle Hutchinson, who is based in Austin and oversees organizers working in Texas as well as other southwest states.

Biden’s efforts in Texas, meanwhile, are primarily centered on hosting fundraising events with high-dollar donors. Ahead of the Houston debate, he attended at least two fundraisers in Texas — one in Houston and another in Dallas. Buttigieg also held a campaign fundraiser Sept. 27 in Austin while in town for this year’s Texas Tribune Festival.

Texas offers the second-largest Super Tuesday delegate haul on March 3, and its non-winner-take-all approach gives candidates reason to compete here even if they cannot win statewide.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Alex Samuels is a reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune and a journalism senior at The University of Texas at Austin. She came to the Tribune in fall 2016 as a newsletters fellow, writing the daily Brief and contributing to the water, education and health newsletters. Alex previously worked for USA Today College as both a collegiate correspondent and their first-ever breaking news correspondent. She has also worked for the Daily Dot where she covered politics, race, and social issues.