The battle for Senate District 10 has become just that — an all-out battle, drawing millions of dollars from supporters and bringing out a new round of attack ads.
As Republican Konni Burton and Democrat Libby Willis wind up their fight for the seat — vacated by Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis, who is running for governor — each campaign is fueled by more than $1 million in new donations.
Burton, a Colleyville conservative with Tea Party ties, took the fundraising lead this week, with more than $1.5 million in contributions since the end of September. Willis, a longtime Fort Worth community activist, picked up more than $1 million during that period as well, according to state reports.
“It’s really bizarre that this money is coming in this late,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. “But both sides know this is the key Senate election in this state.
“It’s either the 11th vote for the Democrats or the 21st vote for Republicans,” he said. “It’s close. If it weren’t close, people wouldn’t be pouring a lot of money into it.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Willis was among those joining state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, at the Tarrant County Democratic Party headquarters for a get-out-the-vote rally.
In Fort Worth, Van de Putte asked supporters to help get people to the polls.
“We all need every single vote,” she said. “Don’t believe what they are telling you. This one is going to be close.”
Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, and state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, held their own rallies in Lubbock and Amarillo.
Early voting wraps up Friday. After that, voters will have one more chance on Election Day — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Senate District 10
Van de Putte cheered on Willis in the battle for SD10 on Tuesday.
The district — which includes Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield and Colleyville — is in play, political observers say, because it is neither solidly Republican nor solidly Democratic. It could move Republicans closer to a supermajority in the Senate, essentially removing Democrats’ ability to stop any proposal in the Legislature.
Burton’s donations include $100,000 from W.E. Bosarge Jr. of Houston; $100,000 from Tim Dunn, president of CrownQuest in Midland; and more than $745,000 from the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, according to the most recent reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.
Willis’ donations include $230,000 from Annie’s List, $350,000 from the Mostyn Law Firm in Austin and $10,000 from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C.
Both sides decried negative campaigning.
Burton’s campaign put out a television ad “calling Libby Willis out for her purely negative campaign,” according to a statement.
“Libby’s negative attacks show exactly what is wrong with politics today,” Burton said. “Though we desired to keep a campaign focused purely on the issues facing our district, Libby Willis has refused to talk about her vision and has instead resorted to making baseless accusations.”
Also on Tuesday, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller condemned a “reprehensible anti-gay” mailer attacking Willis.
“These kinds of hateful campaign tactics represent politics at its worst,” Miller said. “To smear a candidate because she supports equality for everyone is shameful and out of step with Texas voters who are leaving that kind of bigotry in the past.”
Miller said in a statement that reports show the National Family Coalition sent out mailers charging that Willis is “pushing the radical homosexual agenda” and asking, “Is this Libby Willis’ vision for Texas?” Burton’s campaign said it is not affiliated with the group.
Race for lieutenant governor
Van de Putte signed autographs and posed for photos as more than 60 people showed up to welcome her at the Tarrant County Democratic Party headquarters.
Among those speaking in her behalf were Willis; U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth; state Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth; and Tejano musician “Little Joe” Hernandez.
Van de Putte, a San Antonio pharmacist, told supporters that her opponent — Patrick, a talk-show host who bested Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the GOP nomination in May — is not the right person to lead the Texas Senate.
“My mama always said if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all,” she said. “But Mama isn’t here.”
Even the Republican Party “knows Dan Patrick is totally wrong for this state,” she said. “All he does is vote ‘no.’ ”
Patrick has done much of his campaigning through ads. His newest TV commercial attacks Van de Putte’s record on education.
“Leticia Van de Putte is out of touch with Texas parents and wants Washington bureaucrats to run our schools,” the ad says.