With five days to go, and a record 1.5 billion dollars donated to Democratic causes this past quarter, many Democrats are looking to give money and give smartly, and wondering where it can help in the last few days. The answer right now may surprise Democrats: it’s the Texas State House.
There is a once in a generation opportunity turn Texas blue, and if Democrats can pull off a surge in the last week, it could happen.
At this point, Democratic candidates running in competitive Senate races have a large funding advantage, after major momentum propelled by the changes in the Supreme Court. The charts below show how the funding advantage grew 10x for Democratic Senate candidates from $14M to $150M as of the last fundraising report (the exception is in Texas where John Cornyn has continued to out-raise MJ Hegar, though the race may be less competitive).
How it started: Competitive Senate races:
How it’s going: Competitive Senate races:
Data source: Opensecrets.org
In Senate races where the likelihood of success is lower, there are more stark differences. Jaime Harrison has $107M vs Lindsay Graham’s $66M; Amy McGrath has $88M vs Mitch Mcconnell’s $55M. There are only 3.5M registered voters in both South Carolina and Kentucky. The return on an additional dollar here is likely to be low.
At the presidential level, Biden has $939M and Trump has $595M. While this could change, it looks likely to hold.
So, the question remains: where could the throngs of eager Democratic donors make a difference as anxiety levels rise with 5 more days to go? Texas State House races are it.
Texas would be a huge win for Democrats, and in the last few days it’s looking possible. Recent polls showing Biden tied with Trump. There is a possible “trickle-up” effect where enthusiasm for down ballot candidates could help propel voter turnout for Democrats. Many of the Texas State House candidates are dynamic women who may excite voters to turn out to vote, which could mean a decision on election night about the presidency. Then, there’s the value of winning the Texas State House itself, which will give Democrats some say in the redistricting process in 2021 which will set districts for 10 years. With a growing population, Texas is likely to gain congressional seats, so how the lines are drawn matters more. And, only 9 seats need to flip for the Democratic candidates to have a majority. With 29M people, Texas is the largest state controlled by Republicans and has large wind and solar potential, so the impact in terms of number of people governed and the global impact is large.
Most importantly, the Texas State House is the place to donate, because it’s a good investment.
Across State Legislatures, Texas and Florida are the two states where Democratic candidates were vastly out-raised by Republicans prior to the latest funding report. With the latest report though, Texas has momentum.
How it started: State House Races:
How its going: State House Races:
Data source: Deck.tools and Followthemoney.org
Using the two simple criteria to determine where donations will make a difference, enough Texas State House races make the cut to flip the chamber. The first criteria is that the Republican won by a small margin in 2018. The second is that the Republican outspent the Democratic candidate in 2018 by a large margin.
Only 9 districts need to flip for Democrats to win, and at the top of that list is Texas State House District 138. In 2018 the Democratic candidate lost by only 47 votes while being out-raised over 3x. Though the funding gap has narrowed, Republican Lacey Hull, supported by Governor Abbott, has still raised 60% more money than the Democratic candidate, Akilah Bacy.
For others, the fundraising gap in 2018 was even more extreme. In District 54, the Democratic candidate was out-raised 15x in 2018, while only losing by a few thousand votes. Now, Likeithia “Keke” Williams needs only $138k to close the funding gap in 2020.
It is striking how many of these candidates are women and people of color, with a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences (from a university professor to a candidate whose husband was sentenced to life in prison at age 19). One can only imagine what the Texas State House might be like with this diversity and empathy infused into the State House.
There is currently historic early voter turnout in Texas, but it is worth noting that this high turnout does not necessarily mean a Democratic advantage in these districts. Republicans may well be turning out at high numbers also. The final week will be critical.
This is a moment to be smart and strategic with donations. An opportunity to flip Texas is one the Democrats should not miss.