Facing a tough re-election bid, Marchant secures few small donors

In what could be one of the most hotly contested 2020 congressional races in Texas, Rep. Kenny Marchant has garnered virtually no money from small donors, often a needed element of a long campaign.

The Coppell-based Republican’s 2020 re-election campaign has raised over $360,000 from larger donors and corporate political action committees, which tend to favor incumbent candidates.

Marchant will likely face a strong challenge in the upcoming election. In 2018, Marchant managed to survive a tougher-than-expected Democratic challenge, winning by three percentage points.

Candidates in the Democratic primary have collectively already raised far more money than the party’s candidates did last year, as the party sees the traditionally Republican seat as vulnerable.

Marchant’s re-election campaign appears to be getting more donor support than previous years. At this point in the 2018 election cycle, the campaign had received just over $150,000. This cycle the campaign has already more than doubled that amount.

But Marchant has only received $100 from small donors since the beginning of the year, this week’s federal election filing data shows.

A lack of small donor support could be a sign that a candidate’s message isn’t carrying well in their community, said Brendan Quinn, the outreach manager at the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group which tracks campaign funding.

“Normally people that are in more competitive districts want to get small donors,” Quinn said. “Not just because of the optics, but because getting more small donors means they’ve met more of their constituents a lot of the time and that they’re getting their message out to more and more people which means more and more people would be voting for them.”

Keats Norfleet, the spokesperson for Marchant’s campaign said the congressman has lately been focusing more on legislating than fundraising.

“As the Democrats battle it out in what’s shaping up to be a brutal primary, Rep. Marchant has focused on representing his district in Congress,” Norfleet said. “In the coming months we expect to significantly increase the number of donors and add to our significant fundraising advantage.”

Marchant’s district, which encompasses the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and many of the suburbs north of the DFW area, is no longer the Republican stronghold that it used to be.

Demographic changes in the district, fueled by new out-of-state move-ins, have made the district more competitive. Democrat Beto O’Rourke carried the district in his 2018 bid against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election analysis group, predicts that the race for Marchant’s seat will be a “toss-up.”

The Democratic Party, looking to defend its majority in the House, has publicly targeted Marchant’s seat.

Kim Olson, a retired Air Force colonel who ran for Texas Agriculture Commissioner in 2018, currently leads all Democratic candidates in fundraising. From April through June, Olson’s campaign raised almost $279,000. More than 40 percent came from small donors.

“The funds we raised are a reflection of the district’s desire for reasonable and accountable leadership,” Olson said in a statement. “I’m honored that so many people have placed their trust in me to be that leader.”

Crystal Fletcher, a lawyer with a statewide practice who joined the race four weeks ago, reported more than $100,000 raised. Candace Valenzuela, a member of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board has raised just over $80,000.

Jan McDowell, the candidate who nearly unseated Marchant in 2018, has so far raised about $40,000. In the last election she raised about $109,000.