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How Major Donor Support For Jeb Bush In Texas Could Change After South Carolina


Jeb Bush isn’t expected to win the Republican primary in South Carolina, but where the former Florida governor finishes might impact the major donor support he’s had in Texas.

KERA’s Sam Baker talked about this with Abby Livingston, who’s been following the story for The Texas Tribune.

From Abby Livingston’s interview:

Was Jeb Bush’s fourth place finish in the New Hampshire good enough to hold on to major Texas donors?  “I would say fourth place was okay. It was not a disaster. The other thing was how much Marco Rubio stumbled before the primary on the debate stage. It was a situation where donors had a place to go. And then Rubio had his troubles and repeated the same lines over and over again, there was less confidence in Rubio. Now Rubio had a better debate this past Saturday night (February 13), as did Jeb Bush  in many people’s opinion. And so, I would say right now the donor world is in somewhat of a holding pattern. I think things are going to shake out in the next couple of weeks.

Why major Texas GOP donors were so centered behind Bush “50 years of ties. George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, and H.W. Bush has been running for office since the 60s. These are long, long friendships and alliances, and the Bushes have done things for many Texans who have had financial interest in their political careers.”

If Bush is ever out at some point, are there Bush donors his rival would covet or see as up for grabs? “In Dallas, there is what we call a bundler, who is someone who raises a lot of money, works the phones, in the $2,500 increments that you can donate to the federal campaign and his name is Ray Washburne. He was with Governor Christie’s campaign and was a national finance director for the Republican National Committee in a past (election) cycle. So, when Christie dropped out, my first thought was ‘I wonder where Ray Washburne will end up?’ He’s a very respected man in Republican politics. Beyond that, with Governor Bush, Ray Hunt, oil man from Dallas. There is an attorney in East Texas who is a bundler named Gaylord Hughey. And the Bushes have three cities where they concentrate their efforts: Midland, Dallas and Houston. They’ve had home bases in all of those places, so Dallas will have a lot of Bush backers who will be probably shopping for a new candidate in the event Governor Bush doesn’t make it to the end of the primaries.”

Could Senator Ted Cruz tap into any of those donors?  “There is a very sharp divide in Texas Republican politics. And there is definitely a Ted Cruz side of the world and a more establishment side of the world. And the establishment behind the scenes has not shown much of an inclination towards Ted Cruz.”

Are there deep pockets in that side backing Cruz? “Oh, absolutely. There’s a woman down in Houston named Wendy Grimes who’s a big Cruz backer. There’s some other backers around the state, but a lot of his donors have come from New York City. Cruz has done well in this state, but he has some big money coming from out of this state as well.”

What about Democrats? Is there major money from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders here? “The most dominant donors in Texas Democratic politics is a couple named the Mostyns in Houston. They are trial attorneys. Amber Mostyn, the wife of the couple, is extremely active in seeing females elected, and I anticipate they’re with Hillary. Sen. Sanders has not really been courting big donors. What he does is have these big rallies and they collect data from the attendees, and so they are able to get small donations for the people who turn out to events. The positive thing from that is there are federal limits on how much you can give to a presidential campaign, so you can keep going back to those people in $50 increments and keep getting more and more money. Sanders has had a staggering financial operation, although somewhat unconventional, in American politics.”

For more information:

As Jeb Bush Appears Vulnerable, Courting of Texas Donors Begins 

Chris Christie nabs Ray Washburne as finance chief for 2016: report 

The New Emperor of Highland Park Village

The Wealthy Woman Behind Wendy Davis 

Donor profile: Steve and Amber Mostyn 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.