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Beto O’Rourke raises record amount in race for Texas governor vs. Greg Abbott

Beto O’Rourke raised $27.63 million between Feb. 20 and June 30, the most a state-level candidate in Texas has ever raised in one reporting period, his campaign said Friday. O’Rourke, shown at Shermans Austin College just over a year ago, likely still trails in the money race incumbent GOP Gov. Greg Abbott.  (Rebecca Slezak/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)
By Robert T. Garrett Dallas Morning News The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN, Texas – Gubernatorial hopeful Beto O’Rourke raised $27.63 million between Feb. 20 and June 30, the most a state-level candidate in Texas has ever raised in one reporting period, his campaign said Friday.

In fundraising, O’Rourke likely still trails incumbent GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who hasn’t released any numbers.

But at minimum, the Democrat’s huge haul means he’ll be able to advertise steadily in the state’s 20 media markets this fall.

It also means O’Rourke is likely to mount at least as well-financed a bid for governor as former Fort Worth Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis did eight years ago.

In one period, O’Rourke has raised nearly 15 times as much as former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez took in during her entire 2018 bid for governor ($1.86 million).

O’Rourke took in more than 511,000 contributions – 98.9% online – in the more than four-month-long period that his report to the Texas Ethics Commission will cover, his campaign said.

The most-often-listed occupation among O’Rourke’s contributors was teacher, his campaign noted approvingly in a news release. The average contribution was $54, it said.

O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans did not immediately respond to a query about what percentage of the contributors were in-state.

O’Rourke, who raised more than $80 million when he nearly knocked off Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, ran for president unsuccessfully the next year. However, he’s built an extensive following.

Since announcing in November that he’ll try to prevent Abbott from winning a third term, O’Rourke surprised observers with underwhelming initial fundraising hauls. He continued to have many small donors but failed to take advantage of Texas’ lack of any limits on the size of contributions in state elections.

It won’t be clear until O’Rourke’s report is filed how many big donors he’s attracted lately.

“I’m grateful for everyone who helped us raise $27.63 million in just over four months as we support the powerful work of our organizers and more than 78,000 volunteers,” O’Rourke said in a written statement.

“We’re receiving support from people in every part of Texas who want to work together to ensure our state moves beyond Greg Abbott’s extremism and finally leads in great jobs, world class schools, the ability to see a doctor, keeping our kids safe and protecting a woman’s freedom to make her own decisions about her own body, health care and future.”

Evans, the O’Rourke spokesman, said Abbott’s previous high fundraising for a reporting period was $20.87 million – in the first six months of last year.

Mark Miner, a campaign spokesman for Abbott, said late Thursday that there were no plans to report the governor’s fundraising totals before the midnight Friday deadline for electronic filers.

On Wednesday, Abbott strategist Dave Carney had predicted O’Rourke would report $30 million in contributions.

Carney said he based the estimate on fundraising activities by state that ActBlue, a progressive nonprofit political action committee, already had disclosed.

Abbott had about $50 million in the bank when his campaign last reported its finances, in a report due eight days before the March 1 primary in which he dispatched seven GOP opponents running to his right. Abbott grabbed nearly two-thirds of the vote, avoiding a runoff.

Last month, his campaign announced it had made prepaid advertising placements worth nearly $20 million, including TV, radio, digital and what it called a record investment in Spanish-language media.