Freshman Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd) out-raised primary challenger Emily Kebodeaux Cook, $141K to $62K, during the second half of 2017 and outspent her, $111K to $27K. Cook’s first campaign contribution was not accepted until mid-October, so her totals were accrued during the last 10 weeks or so of the year. Bailes held a narrow $47K to $35K lead in cash on hand as of December 31.

Democrat Fred Lemond, a Liberty oil company senior manager, reported less than $1K in contributions. This analysis focuses on the Republicans.

Two years ago, Bailes emerged from a five-way primary to succeed the retiring Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton) and won the runoff over a more conservative candidate. He went on to rank near the bottom among Republicans on the Texans for Fiscal Responsibility/Empower Texans and Young Conservatives of Texas scorecards. He was the lowest-rated Republican on Texas Right to Life’s scorecard, ranking below three Democrats.

Cook is the general counsel for Texas Right to Life. She has been endorsed by many of the key movement conservative groups we track. Bailes has been endorsed by several of the key business groups we track. This dynamic is not uncommon in recent Republican legislative primaries. If you’re thinking it feels a little bit like “Groundhog Day,” that feeling is about to get stronger.

In several key respects, this match-up parallels that 2016 Republican primary runoff, which Bailes won over Liberty attorney Keith Strahan, 67%-33%:

  • Bailes raised and spent more money than Strahan.
  • Strahan had the support of movement conservative groups. They and some of their significant donors supplied around 80% of Strahan’s total contributions.
  • Bailes was endorsed by business associations and agricultural groups, including the Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND, which provided significant resources as the runoff neared.
  • District-based donors gave more and represented a significantly greater share of Bailes’s campaign contributions than Strahan’s. More than half of Bailes’s total contributions came from zip codes wholly or partially within the district, as of the primary election. Strahan received less than 10% of his total contributions from the district.
  • Bailes received more contributions from individuals in district zip codes than Strahan; and
  • Strahan’s top contributors provided a significantly higher proportion of his total contributions than the top contributors to Bailes.

All six of these descriptions apply to the Bailes-Cook primary race, so far.

Four of the six biggest geographic sources of contributions to Bailes are located in the district: Cleveland ($49K), Shepherd ($19K), Dayton ($9K) and Coldspring ($8K). Cook has received less than $2K from those four cities. Cook’s three biggest geographic sources of contributions – Houston ($28K), Austin ($12K) and Midland ($7K) – are outside the district.

Overall, contributors from zip codes wholly or partially within the district contributed $92K to Bailes, providing 64% of all funds he raised in 2017. Cook has received less than $5K from those zip codes, and they account for 8% of her total contributions. Bailes has received 178 contributions from individuals residing in those zip codes. Cook has received 50.


Rep. Bailes

Ernest Bailes

Agribusiness owner
Serving first term

Largest Contributors

$12,500 – Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC

$7,000 – Ron Bailey

$5,000 – former Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton)

$4,600 – Keoth Moran

$4,500 – Jared Miller

$4,475 – Tom Johnson

$4,250 – Janet Martin

$4,000 – Suzanne Moran

$3,400 – E.J. Mann, Robert Sweeten

$3,000 – Charles Frazier

$2,500 – Michael Johnson, Steven Roberts

$2,340 – Sonda Green

$2,116 – John Few

$2,040 – Jimmy Rollins

$2,000 – Associated Republicans of Texas, Chip Green, Don Metz, ONCOR PAC, Jim Reaves


Emily Cook

Texas Right to Life general counsel

Largest Contributors

$25,000 – Texas Right to Life PAC

$10,000 – Empower Texans PAC

$5,000 – Kyle Stallings

$2,000 – Ben Bius, Hexagon Partners

$1,655 – NE Tarrant Tea Party PAC

$1,500 – Elizabeth Graham

The top three contributors to Bailes – Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC ($13K), Ron Bailey ($7K) and former Rep. John Otto ($5K) – represent 17% of his total donations. Cook’s three largest contributors – Texas Right to Life PAC ($25K), Empower Texans PAC ($10K) and Kyle Stallings ($5K) – account for 65% of her total contributions.

Two years ago, business and movement conservative groups took on more important roles in funding their respective candidates’ final pushes toward the runoff. In the 8-day-out report before the runoff, Bailes reported receiving $25K from Associated Republicans of Texas, $23K from Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC and $20K from Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND, collectively comprising 41% of his contributions for that period. Empower Texans PAC ($45K), Texas Right to Life PAC ($35K) and Texas Home School Coalition PAC ($18K) together supplied Strahan with 71% of his contributions covered by that report. Bailes continued to draw a greater share of funds from the district than Strahan, but Strahan drew even, at least for the period, with Bailes in terms of number of donations from individuals in district zip codes.

The candidates’ next campaign finance reports are due Monday. They will include contributions received and expenditures made during the first 25 days of 2018.

©2018 Texas Election Source LLC