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Abbott, Davis boast record hauls in campaign fundraising KVUE

AUSTIN -- State Sen. Wendy Davis and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are boasting record hauls when it comes to raising money.

Campaign finance reports out this week show Abbott's campaign with a whopping $35.6 million cash on hand, a record war chest for a Texas candidate. Long rumored to be itching for a shot at the governor's office, Abbott's campaign fund has been steadily growing during his tenure as the state's top attorney.

"Greg Abbott has been amassing a war chest for this campaign for a long time and that has paid off, and he looks very formidable," said Professor James R. Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

Since its exuberant launch last fall, the Davis campaign reports it's raised $27 million, already more than 2010 Democratic nominee Bill White raised over the course of his campaign against Gov. Rick Perry. Democrats seized upon the excitement surrounding Davis' rise to national fame following her filibuster of anti-abortion legislation in 2013 in the hopes of crafting a legitimately competitive ticket for 2014.

"To some degree, Wendy Davis and her allies are delivering," Henson said of the figures.

Davis and allies Battleground Texas claim $13.1 million cash on hand, a figure far less than the sum socked away by Abbott. Meanwhile both campaigns are spinning the details of the fundraising figures to reinforce their own political narratives.

"We'll see the Davis campaign making the point that they have lots of small donors, that it's very much a grassroots movement," explained Henson. "We'll see the Abbott campaign saying that they have donors that are from Texas and they're not having to depend on out-of-state donors in the way the Davis campaign is."

After a brutal GOP runoff for the lieutenant governor nomination, state Sen. Dan Patrick has just under $1 million cash on hand, compared to $1.2 million for Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. Patrick has raised a total of nearly $7.8 million over the course of the campaign, compared to nearly $2.3 million by Van de Putte. Both raked in about a million dollars since the runoff, and Henson says Patrick is well-positioned to quickly replenish the money spent defeated incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

"The parity that we saw there is a sign that the Democrats aren't necessarily losing ground or running out of gas," said Henson. "But it also underlines the fact when you look at it in a broader context that the Republicans just have such significant advantages in this area."

All that cash is needed to reach voters in a state of 26 million people and four major media markets. Once the election gets closer, campaigns will blitz the airwaves and internet with advertisements. Deciding precisely when to begin the blitz is a strategic decision each campaign will have to make.

"There is a little bit of a chess game here in which I would expect that the Abbott campaign may very well try to goad the Davis campaign into spending their money early, and that's where these big cash on hand advantages really come into it," said Henson, explaining Abbott's cash advantage could be leveraged to tempt the Davis campaign into exhausting their finances before the traditional final push.

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