Federal officeholders and candidates were required to file quarterly campaign finance reports by last Sunday. Those reports detail contributions received and expenditures made during the third quarter, but this report focuses on the total amount of contributions the candidates have raised during the first three quarters of 2017.

See our Federal Crib Sheet for the latest numbers.

Twelve Democratic candidates seeking to take on Republican U.S. House incumbents have raised at least $100K so far this year, indicating higher interest in their campaigns – and in defeating incumbents – than Texas’s congressional delegation has seen in recent election cycles. During the entire two-year 2016 election cycle, just six challengers received at least $100K in contributions.

Democratic challengers running for the U.S. House of Representatives have collectively raised $4.9M so far in 2017. This figure is already $1.9M more than the entire slate of Democratic challengers raised during the entire 2015-16 election cycle and already $4.0M more when one excludes former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), who alone accounted for more than 70% of all funds raised by the party’s candidates that cycle.

These figures do not include U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso), who is challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R). O’Rourke’s campaign said it raised $1.7M during the third quarter, bringing his year-to-date total to $4.2M (His report is not currently available online.). He out-raised the Cruz re-election campaign committee, $1.7M to $1.3M, during the quarter.

Combined, O’Rourke and the House Democratic candidates have already raised nearly $6.6M, well more than double the amount the slate of candidates – including those defeated in primaries – raised during all eight quarters of 2015-16.

U.S. House Challengers Raising at Least $100K So Far in 2017

$666,363* – Alex Triantaphyllis, running for CD7 (Culberson), including $219K* this quarter
$582,619 – Ed Meier, running for CD32 (Sessions), including $238K this quarter
$549,753 – Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, running for CD7 (Culberson), including $184K* this quarter
$401,864 – Laura Moser, running for CD7 (Culberson), including $166K this quarter
$372,442 – Joseph Kopser, running for CD21 (Smith), including $168K this quarter
$256,123 – Todd Litton, running for CD2 (Poe), including $116K this quarter
$251,225 – Jason Westin, running for CD7 (Culberson), including $99K this quarter
$242,320 – Colin Allred, running for CD32 (Sessions), including $62K this quarter
$200,100 – Jay Hulings, running for CD23 (Hurd), all of it this quarter
$150,608 – Lillian Salerno, running for CD32 (Sessions), all of it this quarter
$105,023 – Dayna Steele, running for CD36 (Babin), including $42K this quarter
$103,688 – Gina Ortiz Jones, running for CD23 (Hurd), all of it this quarter

* indicates figure exceeds incumbent’s corresponding figure

Despite this significant jump in fundraising results, virtually every Democratic challenger remains at a financial disadvantage to the incumbent. U.S. Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston) was the only House incumbent to be out-raised by any single challenger – Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Alex Triantaphyllis did so. – during the quarter, and Triantaphyllis is the only challenger to out-raise an incumbent over the first three quarters (Culberson said Hurricane Harvey was partially to blame.).

U.S. Rep. John Culberson

U.S. Rep. John Culberson

Culberson is also the only incumbent who does not hold a cash-on-hand advantage over every challenger. At the end of the third quarter, Culberson ($389K) placed third within his race behind Triantaphyllis ($536K) and Fletcher ($403K). In every other race, the incumbent has out-raised every individual challenger in this most recent quarter and for the year, and the incumbent has a significant cash-on-hand advantage over every individual challenger.

For the quarter, U.S. Reps. John Carter (R-Round Rock), Culberson, Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) and Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) were out-raised by the field of candidates running against them. Only Culberson has been out-raised by the field for the year to date.

It is too early to determine whether these early fundraising successes will translate into more competitive general elections a year from now. Another challenge already lies in each of these Democratic candidates’ paths: other Democrats.

Every Democratic challenger mentioned in this report currently faces a contested Democratic primary, and many that move forward face the prospect of a runoff:

  • The nearly $2M that has been contributed to defeat Culberson is split eight ways, and the field includes four of the candidates raising at least $100K so far this year (Fletcher, Triantaphyllis). Only one of these will eventually face Culberson, assuming he wins a contested primary (More on that in a minute).
  • In CD23, Jay Hulings ($200K raised in 2017) and Gina Ortiz Jones ($104K) face each other and three other announced candidates for the nomination to face Hurd.
  • In CD32, Colin Allred ($242K), Ed Meier ($583K) and Lillian Salerno ($151K) face each other and at least eight other announced candidates for the nomination to face Sessions.
  • In CD2, Todd Litton ($256K) faces five announced opponents.
  • In CD21, Joseph Kopser ($372K) faces six announced opponents; and
  • In CD36, Dayna Steele ($105K) has a single opponent.

For each of the surviving candidates, the real question will be whether they can sustain their early fundraising success – and woo their vanquished opponents’ donors – to carry their fight to the incumbent.

There is more good news for most Republican incumbents. Only two Republican primary challengers have raised at least $50K during the first three quarters of the year, and none has raised at least $100K. In CD7, David Balat has raised $59K and has $91K on hand for his primary challenge of Culberson. In CD26, Veronica Birkenstock has raised $52K and has $17K on hand for her primary challenge of U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Lewisville).

From a purely campaign finance perspective, Culberson has the toughest road of any incumbent. He faces a moderately well-financed challenge from the right and a field of well-financed candidates from the left, and his campaign fundraising to date has lagged behind other incumbents and the field he’s facing. In the end, he will only face one of those Democrats, assuming he fends off his primary challenger, and he has plenty of time to raise funds for that fight.

Democratic incumbents’ opponents did not fare so well this quarter. Only one Democratic primary challenger reported raising at least $10K during the third quarter, and no general election challenger raised even $1K.

In the open seats, Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) raised $501K during the third quarter, the second most of any House candidate in Texas, dwarfing the field of candidates in that race ($44K combined). In open CD16, Veronica Escobar out-raised Dori Fenenbock, $332K to $207K, but Fenenbock holds the advantage in cash-on-hand, $405K to $297K. Three other candidates combined to raise less than $15K.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC