Monday marked 30 days until the March 6 Texas primary. It was the deadline for Texans to register to vote in the primary and the second fundraising deadline for candidates running for state office. For former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, considered a favorite to make it into a runoff when she joined the race in early December, the cutoffs find a struggling campaign, one that's badly behind in fundraising and seemingly can't get off the ground.
Houston businessman Andrew White, the son of former Texas Gov. Mark White, announced Monday morning that his campaign took in more than $1.1 million during January — a figure that includes a $1 million loan the candidate made to the campaign — after raising about $200,000 in December. Valdez, who raised just over $50,000 in December, hadn't submitted her final January numbers by early Monday night, but had raised a little more than $48,500 in January.
Both candidates' fundraising numbers pale in comparison to incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who announced Monday that his campaign has more than $43 million to spend in the general election, if necessary, well over the $20 million or so commonly thought to be the minimum amount necessary to run a competitive statewide race in Texas. In a statement, White said that any candidate hoping to challenge Abbott is going to need a great deal of cash.
"Democrats will need a war chest to beat Gov. Abbott in the fall," White said. "We've started building one today. I remain humbled by the generosity of so many around the state who believe, like I do, Texas can do better. Let's bring sanity back to government and fight for fairness and equality for all. Enough with the extremist politics of Trump/Abbott."
Over the last week, White also picked up the endorsements of the two biggest newspapers in Texas, his hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, and The Dallas Morning News, the publication of record in the county for which Valdez served since being elected sheriff in 2004. The Houston GLBT Political Caucus endorsed White over Valdez, the U.S.' first openly gay Latina sheriff.
Valdez said late Monday that she wasn't worried about the fundraising gap.
"I'm not wealthy, but I have a lot to be thankful for — including the grassroots support that's powering my campaign," Valdez said in a statement. "I’m not worried about Andrew White’s million-dollar campaign loan, because Texan Democrats can’t be bought, and we’ll prove that on election day.”
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White's had a good couple of weeks, which raises the specter of him advancing to the general election without a runoff although he's never held public office. White also opposes the legalization of marijuana and has said he is "personally pro-life" despite supporting abortion rights, positions seen as out of step with the Democratic Party.
"[White] clearly has the stronger campaign right now," says Ed Espinoza, the executive director of Progress Texas. "I wouldn't rule out him winning without a runoff. Let's be realistic about it. You've got nine candidates, seven of which you haven't heard of — maybe you've heard of [Dallas businessman] Jeffrey Payne — but at least two-thirds of them people have never heard of. When you have that many candidates that are running and that many people that are unknown, yeah, it's entirely possible that somebody could win without a runoff."
Despite being a good candidate on paper, Valdez hasn't been able to find the spark to launch her campaign, Espinoza says.
"She's with us on the issues. She's a believer [in progressive causes]. She checks a lot of boxes, but sometimes you need a little bit more. I think she's still trying to get her footing," Espinoza says.