Politics & Government

Flush with cash, Granger campaigns for bigger GOP role

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth represents Texas Congressional District 12.
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth represents Texas Congressional District 12. Facebook via The Texas Tribune

Fort Worth Rep. Kay Granger is stockpiling money for a big race this fall — to move into one of Congress’s most coveted leadership roles.

While other Texas Republicans have lagged in fundraising and received a stern warning from GOP leaders this week, Granger’s amassed more than $860,000 in her campaign’s bank account.

Rather than spending much on her re-election race, which neither party considers competitive, Granger is putting that money toward her campaign to chair Congress’s appropriations committee when it opens up next year.

Granger is one of a handful of lawmakers maneuvering for the position within her party. The winner could make it to the GOP’s top spot on the panel — but they’d serve under a chair controlled by a Democrat, if Republicans loses the House majority this November.

“I can raise money,” said Granger, who currently chairs the panel in charge of handing out money for defense contracts. “What I’ve been doing is helping other members.”

Granger’s most recent report, covering the April 1 to June 30 quarter, shows contributions to many colleagues in tough races this year, including Reps. Jeff Denham, R-California, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, and Mimi Walters, R-California. It also shows a $322,000 contribution to the NRCC in January of this year.

“People I raise from, I always say I’m doing this for other members,” Granger told the Star-Telegram Thursday.

Helping the party financially is standard practice for members of both parties who want to rise in leadership.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, for example, has raised millions for the Senate’s Republican campaign committee this year. He’s not up for re-election until 2020, but wants to succeed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, some day.

Senior lawmakers also use their campaign war chests to court support from new members, who often start receiving checks and phone calls from prospective leaders before they even arrive in Washington.

“In the hours and days after being elected to Congress, there is a whirlwind of phone calls, meetings and general chaos,” Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Massachusetts., said of the process.

“You’re often expected to weigh in on leadership races before you learn the fastest route to the House floor,” he told the Star-Telegram.

Asked whether there’s a plan to take out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says no chance.

Granger’s raised $1.67 million this election cycle, roughly on pace with Culberson, who is among national Democrats’ targets this fall.

Unlike Granger, Culberson and other Republicans will need lots of money to hold onto their seats in an election that typically favors the party out of power in Washington.

Democratic challengers outraised GOP incumbents in dozens of districts across the country in the most recent fundraising quarter —including six Texans. Democrats need to flip 23 seats nationwide to take the House this November.

In a private meeting with lawmakers this week, leaders from the GOP’s campaign arm pointed to Texas as a problem when it comes to fundraising, even though Texas ranks below other states for both parties in terms of competitiveness.

A senior GOP aide with knowledge of the meeting said members were advised that “charity begins at home.”

Democrats are targeting five GOP-seats in Texas this year: Culberson, Will Hurd, Pete Sessions, John Carter and the seat currently held by retiring Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. Culberson, Carter, Hurd and Sessions were all outraised by their challengers this quarter.

Even Republicans in seats considered safe say they’re taking the threats seriously.

“[My opponent] was not in that big flurry of fundraising, but nonetheless she’s there, so I’m going to give full attention to my campaign,” said Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, whose strongly Republican district sits between Dallas and Fort Worth.

“We’ve got a full August, then after September, we’re going to spend all of October campaigning,” Marchant told the Star-Telegram Thursday.

Granger, who does not hold public town halls, is taking a different route.

Since the House passed Granger’s defense budget last month, she’s focused her attention on meeting with lawmakers who will decide the GOP’s top leadership positions next year.

Rep. Kay Granger, who hopes to chair the House Appropriations Committee next year, describes her defense bill at a press conference with GOP leaders.

Her office declined to provide the details of any campaign activities for her own race, but noted she has a full slate of fundraising events planned for other members in the coming months.

Her latest campaign finance report shows little money spent on campaign advertising this past year. It includes $441 for home security and equipment installation in January, something Congress gave members permission to use campaign funds for last year.

Granger’s Democratic opponent, Vanessa Adia, raised roughly $26,000 in the past three months.

Despite vigorous efforts to draw attention to her campaign, Democratic strategist Matt Angle, who is helping his party’s candidate in the state Senate race that overlaps Granger’s district, called the race “safe Republican.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited GOP leaders’ fundraising admonishment as a biblical reference.

Andrea Drusch is the Washington Correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at adrusch@mcclatchydc.com; @andreadrusch