WASHINGTON – In the 10 days after long shot Democratic candidate and veteran MJ Hegar published her widely praised viral video, her campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, raised $750,000. It’s only the latest large fundraising figure reported by a Democratic U.S. House candidate from Texas, but it shows a stunning surge of interest in Hegar’s candidacy.
Hegar will report raising $1.1 million in the second fundraising quarter of the year, her campaign told the Tribune. Most of that came about from the attention drawn to her candidacy by her biographical ad, “Doors,” which has been viewed more than 2.5 million times.
Hegar’s fundraising news comes after two other Texas Democratic challengers released their own impressive figures from the quarter. On Monday morning, retired Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones of San Antonio announced she had raised $1.2 million. And on Thursday, Houston attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher reported raising “more than $1 million” in that same period.
Ortiz Jones and Fletcher are running in two of the most competitive House districts in the state. Ortiz Jones is taking on U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Helotes for the geographically vast 23rd District that encompasses two major media markets, El Paso and San Antonio. Fletcher is running against U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, in one of the most expensive media markets in the country. If past is precedent, these candidates will stockpile this money ahead of fall television ad wars.
Hurd is a perennially strong fundraiser. Culberson has improved his fundraising over the last year, as the viability of the Democratic offensive in his district has taken form. None of the incumbents these women are challenging have released their second quarter numbers. Fundraising reports are due on July 15.
Hegar, however, is in a different category. Her race encompasses conservative areas along Interstate-35 and in the northern Austin suburbs. Carter, the incumbent, was first elected in 2002 and has never faced a serious general election campaign.
But $1 million hauls for individual House campaigns isn’t status quo in American politics. In past cycles, candidates who raised $300,000-$400,000 were considered top fundraising performers. National strategists place a premium on individual candidate fundraising. Federal candidates secure lower television ad rates than outside groups. These Democratic hauls have the potential to place enormous stress on the nationwide GOP advertising campaign to hold control of the House.
For instance, Hegar’s rival, Carter, is a high-ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, a powerful position that should help him kick up his fundraising. But if he cannot keep pace with her, the race may draw in GOP outside groups and the House GOP campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, to spend resources to hold on to a traditionally safe seat. That is money that could potentially be pulled away from Republican incumbents elsewhere in the country. The massive Democratic fundraising reports are expected to continue in the U.S. Senate race, where Republican incumbent Ted Cruz has been outraised by Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke for four out of the last five fundraising periods. O’Rourke took his fundraising to new heights in the first quarter, raking in a staggering $6.7 million, more than double what Cruz raised at the same time.
O’Rourke has not released his numbers for the past three months yet, but all signs point to another monster quarter. He’s already raised nearly $3.5 million online alone during the first two months of the three-month period, which is more than Cruz took in overall in the prior period. Plus, O’Rourke has expressed confidence on the campaign trail, telling supporters at one recent stop that they outraised Cruz last time and they are “about to do it again.” Cruz, meanwhile, said weeks ago that he expects O’Rourke to beat him again in the money race.
Patick Svitek contributed to this report.