Valdez, White raise little in low-budget race to face Gov. Abbott


Andrew White has more to spend than Lupe Valdez in the last week before their runoff.

Both Democratic gubernatorial candidates are raising relatively little money for such a big race.

Since late February, Lupe Valdez has out-raised Andrew White for the first time in their race for the Democratic nomination for governor, but it was a lot closer than initially believed after her campaign corrected mistakes in a finance report that overstated her contribution totals.

As of May 12, White had nearly nine times as much cash on hand heading into the May 22 runoff. He said Tuesday his campaign will spend most of the nearly $1 million he has available on digital media and mailers targeting likely voters in congressional districts with competitive primaries.

“We’re spending away,” said White, who early on loaned his campaign $1 million on top of what he has raised.

A spokesman for Valdez said the campaign will be spending money on digital media and radio ads targeting the Democratic base and focusing on her values and life story.

Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, received 43 percent of the vote in the March 6 primary to 27 percent for White, a Houston entrepreneur and the son of former Gov. Mark White.

According to the amended pre-runoff reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission on Tuesday, the Valdez campaign raised $208,000 between Feb. 25 and May 12, spent $88,000, had $115,000 in the bank and had $20,000 in outstanding loans. The original report, filed Monday, reported raising $291,000 and ending the period with $258,000 in the bank.

The Valdez spokesman attributed the mistake to an “administrative error” with online contributions.

During the same period, the White campaign raised $179,000, spent $166,000 and had $981,000 in the bank and more than $1 million in outstanding loans.

Both numbers are anemic for a Texas gubernatorial campaign.

“These would be acceptable numbers if they were running for state rep,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who did not have to file a report Monday because he is not in a runoff, had $41 million in the bank as of Feb. 24.

Before the new filing, White had raised $445,000 and Valdez $162,000.

“The amounts we are raising are not very much,” White said. “Once we get past this primary runoff, we expect to be able to raise a lot more money.”

White said Democratic fundraising was still suffering a hangover from Wendy Davis’ unsuccessful 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

“What happened with Wendy Davis four years ago, she raised 40-something-million dollars and just a huge number of Democratic donors were upset about how that campaign was run,” White said. “We’re getting the backlash from that.”

“What really hits you is this is a state where there are no limits on donations, which means no heavy hitters are wading into this race to give money to either of these candidates,” Jones said.

“One of the legacies of the Wendy Davis campaign are those national and state Democrats donors got burned because they drank the Kool-Aid that Wendy Davis was going to turn Texas blue or even purple,” Jones said. “Instead, she left it even redder than Bill White left it.”

Former Houston Mayor Bill White — no relation to Andrew White — lost to Gov. Rick Perry by 13 points in 2010. Davis lost to Abbott by 20 points in 2014.

A Quinnipiac University survey of 1,029 Texas voters from April 12-17 found Abbott 7 points ahead of White and 7 points ahead of Valdez.

Valdez has the endorsement of the Texas AFL-CIO, and her biggest donor in the latest report was the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which contributed $60,000. Domingo Garcia, a Dallas personal injury attorney, gave $25,000. Garcia, a former state representative, has been an unsuccessful candidate for Dallas mayor and for Congress.

White received $20,000 from Lyndon Lowell Olsen Jr. of Waco, a retired insurance executive and former ambassador to Sweden.

He also received donations from some prominent Houstonians, including $10,000 from philanthropist and arts advocate Sara Morgan and $5,000 each from Jennifer Dellinger, a financial adviser with UBS Financial Services; Vincent Lionel Foster, the CEO of Main Street Capital in Houston; David Magdol, also of Main Street Capital; Melanie Gray, a lawyer with Winston & Strawn; Sanjay Kalavar, a management consultant with McKinsey & Co. in Houston; and Louis Sklar, a retired executive with Hines in Houston.

Among the districts the White campaign is targeting for mailers are the 21st Congressional District, where Mary Wilson is in a runoff with Joseph Kopser for the Democratic nomination, and the 25th Congressional District, where Chris Perri is facing off against Julie Oliver.

Early voting began Monday.

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