AUSTIN — President Barack Obama's trip to Texas on Monday to raise money for Democratic candidates comes during a growth spurt in fundraising activity for Texas Democrats, fueled in part by the emergence of a new generation of deep-pocketed donors.
The state Democratic Party, virtually destitute early last decade, has rebounded with a robust upswing in fundraising the past five years. And in the governor's race, Democratic nominee Bill White is giving Republican incumbent Rick Perry a strong run for money as well as for votes.
With four months before the Nov. 2 election, White had more than $9 million as of June 30, compared with Perry's $5.8 million, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. White has also raised slightly more than Perry — $7.4 million compared with just over $7 million — since the March primaries. White trails Perry in overall fundraising for this election cycle, with $16 million compared with $20 million.
The improved fortunes, Democrats say, stem partly from an aggressive comeback plan that they put in motion five years ago after Republicans completed their hold on state government by taking over the House of Representatives in 2003. Over the past few years, a group of relatively young big-money donors has stepped forward to help finance the comeback, including husband-and-wife lawyers Steve Mostyn and Amber Anderson Mostyn of Houston and Dallas civic leader Naomi Aberly, former chairwoman of Planned Parenthood of North Texas.
Democratic leaders in Fort Worth say the Republican-dominated city has yet to match the fundraising star power of other big cities. "The more flamboyant fundraising events are usually done in Dallas, Houston or Austin," Tarrant County Democratic Chairman Steve Maxwell said. "We just don't see many of those in Fort Worth."
At the same time, however, Maxwell says the local party is having one of its best years ever for smaller donations, usually $50 to $500.
"There was a time when it was virtually impossible to raise money for the local county party," Maxwell said. "Now I'm raising money all the time and raising far more money to fund our party efforts than we've ever done in the past."
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