Republican primary challenger Damon Rambo out-raised Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), $103K to $51K, during the first 25 days of 2018, but almost all of that money came from one source: Empower Texans PAC.

Bonnen, an 11-term incumbent, holds the overall advantage in total contributions, $253K to $124K, and he has a $627K lead in cash on hand. Bonnen has outspent Rambo nearly 10-to-1 for the election cycle to date. No other candidates have filed for the race.

In fact, that statement has been largely true since Bonnen was first elected in 1996. Bonnen has not faced a primary challenger since 2000, and he hasn’t faced a Democratic challenger since 2004. He has run completely unopposed since 2008. Bonnen’s long rest from competition may well be the biggest asset for Rambo, a Markham pastor.

His other biggest asset is Empower Texans PAC, which has supplied nearly $5 out of every $6 the challenger has raised so far.

It is not unusual for Austin to be the single largest geographic source of contributions for a race involving a longtime incumbent. It is unusual for the challenger to have received more money from Austin than the incumbent. By itself, Empower Texans PAC has supplied more resources into this race than the entire collection of Austin-based lobbyists, politicos and business associations.

Bonnen has out-raised Rambo, $42K to $3K, from zip codes located wholly or partially within the district. Rambo has received donations from 61 individuals in those zip codes, averaging $45 per person. Bonnen has received an average of $2,097 from 18 individuals in those zip codes. District zip codes accounted for 16% of Bonnen’s contribution total and 2% of Rambo’s.


Rep. Dennis Bonnen

Serving 11th term

Largest Contributors

$15,000 – Texas Assoc. of Realtors TREPAC

$10,081 – Blackridge

$10,000 – Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC

$5,000 – AT&T Texas PAC, James Dannenbaum, John Martin, Ruben Martin III, Perdue Brandon Fielder Collins & Mott LLP, Kathaleen Wall

$4,632 – Locke Lord LLP

$3,581 – Independent Bankers Assoc. of Texas PAC


Damon Rambo

Pastor, videographer

Largest Contributors

$102,800 ­– Empower Texans PAC

$10,000 – Darlene Pendery

$2,500 – Kyle Stallings

$1,500 – Hexagon Interim Partnership

$1,132 – NE Tarrant Tea Party PAC

$1,000 – Russell Bennett

Bonnen’s three biggest donors – Texas Assoc. of Realtors TREPAC ($15K), Blackridge ($10K) and Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC ($10K) – chipped in 14% of his contribution total. Rambo’s three biggest donors – Empower Texans PAC ($103K), Flower Mound retiree Darlene Pendery ($10K) and Midland oil businessman Kyle Stallings ($3) – provided 93% of Rambo’s total contributions. Pendery and Stallings are significant donors to the Empower Texans PAC and the candidates it supports.

In the final days of the 2016 primary campaign, Empower Texans PAC spent just over $1M, mostly for candidates opposing Republican incumbents. Will it, or its donors, continue to invest on Rambo’s campaign, which otherwise has not demonstrated an ability to marshal resources to be competitive? Meanwhile, Bonnen already has the resources to spread his message and the ability to raise more.

The next campaign finance reports for these candidates is due February 26.

©2018 Texas Election Source LLC