Politics & Government

Tarrant County money plays role in Texas gubernatorial race

Tarrant County money is likely to play a key role in this year’s race for Texas governor.

Local residents have already sent more than 1,800 donations ranging from $5 to $250,000 to the two leading candidates, records show.

Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth are expected to handily win the March primaries and face each other in the Nov. 4 general election battle that will determine Texas’ next governor.

“Tarrant County will play a large role in this race,” said Victoria Farrar-Myers, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “This has always been the reddest of red in Texas and they’ve prided themselves on that.”

Voters in Tarrant County have long supported Republican presidential nominees, and the area is considered one of the most Republican communities in the country.

Political observers have said this area is so red that it is a bellwether for any political shift that might happen in the state — making Republicans determined to keep it as it is and Democrats dedicated to creating change.

That put Davis, who bested Republicans in 2008 and 2012 to win and keep Senate District 10, in the cross hairs of some.

“Democrats have a foothold in Dallas County through judicial races, and some have watched Tarrant County go from bright, bright red to a pink because of the Senate 10 loss last time,” Farrar-Myers said. “It got a lot of Republicans in Tarrant County worked up.

“They tried to do everything they could [to defeat her], … but she still won,” she said. “There are a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of bad blood.”

That could play out in Davis’ gubernatorial bid — in votes and donations.

Abbott raised $11.5 million in the last six months of 2013 and has $27 million cash on hand, according to campaign finance records filed with the Texas Ethics Commission last month.

Davis, through a combination of three accounts, reported raising $12.2 million during that time and has $9.5 million on hand, according to the records.

New updated reports are due to the Texas Ethics Commission today.

Here’s a look at some of the Tarant County money being donated to this race.

Republican dollars

More than 350 of Abbott’s donations in the last half of 2013 came from Tarrant County.

Abbott, who grew up in nearby Duncanville, received several donations from local political action committees.

They included $60,000 from the Good Government Fund, which is run by the Bass family; $25,000 from QPAC, a committee of Fort Worth investment banker Geoffrey Raynor; $50,000 from Suerte PAC, a Fort Worth-based committee that lists Fort Worth attorney Dee Kelly Jr. as treasurer; and $25,000 from the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association PAC.

Other notable donations were:

“A number of people I know have been angling to get Wendy out of office since the election of 2008 or 2012,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. “They’re angling to defeat her now and I wouldn’t be surprised if that gains a little steam.

“There are Republicans in Tarrant County that are opposed to Wendy Davis and have been since the very moment she got involved in partisan politics.”

Democratic donations

At the same time, a number of local Democrats are sending in contributions backing their choice for governor, who happens to be a former Fort Worth councilwoman.

Davis picked up more than 1,300 donations, including a number of small donations and repeat donors, in the last half of 2013 from Tarrant County.

They included $2,000 from former Tarrant County Democratic Chairman Art Brender: $10,000 from the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats political action committee, $10,500 from the Ironworkers State COPE fund; and $12,000 from Flora Brewer of Fort Worth, a real estate development business owner.

Other notable donations are:

“The governor’s race is extraordinarily important and Republicans have a stranglehold on statewide races,” said Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, an associate political science professor at the University of North Texas in Denton.

“If there’s some way the Davis campaign can say they really have a shot, … it is to make the argument that Tarrant County is the bellwether and Wendy Davis is winning in Tarrant County with donations and polling support,” he said. “If that’s the case, maybe they have a chance.”