Texas pols ramping up for 2020

Dave McNeely

Even before the March party primary elections, some Democrats and Republicans are ramping up for the November general election.

Democrats are challenging in court some election practices they think purposely curtail their vote.

Meanwhile, some Democrats are funding efforts to help other Democrats win or hold House seats. So are Republicans.

Lawsuits . . . The Texas Democratic Party has challenged in federal court a state rule that disallows electronic signatures on voter registration forms.

The rule, enforced by the Secretary of State – an appointee of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott – blocked more than 2,400 voter registration forms days before the registration deadline for the 2018 election.

That happened despite the state accepting other electronic signatures, including some on voter registration applications sent through the Department of Public Safety during driver's license renewals, the suit contends.

In October, state and national Democratic committees filed suit to overturn a new state law requiring often mobile early voting sites to stay fixed in the same location for all of early voting.

Democrats say the cost is prohibitive, and makes voting more difficult for college students, senior citizens and others.

A November lawsuit contests a longtime law requiring the party of the governor to be listed first in every race on general election ballots. The suit says the law gives an "unfair, arbitrary, and artificial advantage" to Republicans, who have held the governorship since 1995.

Campaign Funding. . . Democratic Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio and Chris Turner of Arlington recently announced transfers from their campaign accounts to help Democrats gain the nine seats needed to win control of the House.

Fischer said he has transferred $350,000 to One Texas, his leadership Political Action Committee (PAC), aimed at the House takeover.

During the 2018 election cycle, Fischer said he had raised and spent more than $100,000 to help Democrats win a dozen seats held by Republicans.

Fischer, now in his ninth term, and chair of the House Committee on Business and Industry, said he pledged last October to match contributions up to $100,000.

“In two short months, One Texashas raised $350,000 toward our efforts to take back the Texas House, far exceeding my initial goal to match contributions up to $100,000," Fischer said. "Every single dollar will be leveraged and directly invested in campaigns.”

Fischer said he is "so encouraged by this momentum that I have decided to double-down with another $100,000 challenge."

Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, chairs the House Higher Education Committee and the House Democratic Caucus, said that in 2018, his campaign contributed more than $340,000 to help Democratic candidates.

For 2020, he has raised $327,000 as of January, and donated $57,000 to Democratic House members, candidates, and campaign organizations.

Turner, a five-term member unopposed for re-election, hopes to raise a lot more to help other Democrats in 2020, working with the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

“This election will shape the future of Texas for generations," Turner said. "With just nine seats between Democrats and the majority in the Texas House, and with redistricting on our doorstep, it’s imperative that our candidates have the resources they need to win.”

Fischer added that "tremendous challenges" facing the House include "health care, and maintaining our financial commitments to public education. Only a strong Democratic majority will ensure that the interests of Texas families remain our top legislative priority."

Annie’s List, backing Democratic women who support abortion rights, pulled in $311,000 over the last two months.

Recently formed Texas House Majority PAC, has already raised $500,000, says treasurer Patsy Woods Martin, former executive director of Annie's List.

The new group will avoid primaries, but plans to invest its money early in battleground races, well ahead of the November elections.

Republicans in 2020 are trying to protect incumbents, reclaim some seats they lost in 2018, and pick up still others.

Former House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has formed Texas Forever Forward,to help Republicans be re-elected. His PAC late last month sent $5,000 each to eight members.

Straus's successor as speaker, Dennis Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, after trying to make a backroom deal with Michael Quinn Sullivan, leader of right-wing group Empower Texans, only to find Sullivan had secretly taped the offer, was forced to say he won't seek re-election.

But while Republicans discuss how to regroup after Bonnen's exit next January, Bonnen had put $3 million into a new PAC, Texas Leads.How he will spend that remains to be seen.

Another new Republican PAC, Leading Texas Forward, features as its treasurer legendary Texas and national political guru Karl Rove.

The group had raised more than half a million dollars by the end of December, including $50,000 each from incumbent House Republicans Charlie Geren of Fort Worth and Four Price of Amarillo.

On to November.

Contact McNeely at davemcneely111@gmail.com