AUSTIN – Gambling interests and other big Republican donors have chosen sides in the political feud between Gov. Rick Perry (search) and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn (search), who now have a combined $8.7 million in the bank for upcoming elections, according to campaign finance reports.
Perry raised $100,000 in a single day from gambling interests, the reports filed Thursday showed. The governor's top donors included Houston developer Robert Perry, who gave four contributions of $25,000 each, and San Antonio businessman Jim Leininger's March 15 donation of $25,000.
The governor has the advantage in campaign cash on hand with $5.1 million, compared with $3.6 million for Strayhorn a full two years before the Texas governor's race of 2006. They and others who are raising money for possible state candidacies had to file six-month campaign finance reports by Thursday with the Texas Ethics Commission (search).
Reports showed that Perry's largest single contribution came on Feb. 11 with a $50,000 contribution by the Maxxam Texas political action committee. Maxxam Inc., operated by Houstonian Charles Hurwitz, pressed for expansion of gambling during the most recent legislative session on school finance.
Texans for Public Justice analyst Bill Medaille said Maxxam owns the Sam Houston Track in Houston for horse racing and Valley Race Park in Harlingen, which races greyhounds. Public Justice found 15 contributions, including the Maxxam contribution, made Feb. 11 from those with gambling interests. Each was for at least $500 and totaled more than $100,000, the Public Justice analysis showed.
Strayhorn, who has also supported slot machines at Texas racetracks, also received thousands of dollars from those with gaming interests, her report shows. Contributions include $50,000 from Dallas real estate magnate Harlan Crow on June 16. The Crow family formerly owned Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie and retain an interest in future revenues from slot machines if they are legalized in the future.
The comptroller's report shows donations of $473,310 between Jan. 1 and April 8. She raised an additional $704,040 between April 9 and June 30, according to her campaign.
"In my decades of public service, I have never had this level of support this far out from the next election," she said. Although Strayhorn has not said whether she will challenge Perry in a GOP primary, she is considering it.
Candidates for this year's congressional contests — which are being conducted under newly drawn Republican-leaning districts — filed three-month reports by Thursday on their fund-raising with the Federal Election Commission. Both the federal and state reports were for the period ending June 30.
Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions reported raising more than $1 million for the quarter and having $2.5 million cash on hand in the highly competitive District 32 in the Dallas area. His opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, reported raising $1.2 million and said in a prepared statement he has more than $1.6 million cash-on-hand for the November election.
In District 17, which covers a territory that is home to President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Democratic U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco reported raising $617,106 with a total of $1.2 million in cash on hand.
Republican state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth of Burleson, his opponent, said she had raised more than $728,000 in the last quarter and had $402,000 cash on hand.
In West Texas' District 19, where two incumbents are battling to remain in Congress, Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm of Abilene reported raising $457,958 with available cash of $738,857.
Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock, his opponent, reported raising $541,865 with more than $1.05 million cash on hand.
Strayhorn, the state's chief financial officer, raised $1.17 million the first half of the year.
Perry, who took over as governor when Bush resigned to become president in December 2000 and was later elected to a full four-year term, raised $3.2 million in the first half of 2004.
Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison also has not ruled out a run for Texas governor. Her federal campaign account has cash on hand of $6.6 million, but she could not use that in a state race. She has said that if she runs for state office she would offer to return those federal contributions. Donors could then contribute to a state campaign account.
There are no limits on state contributions.
Federal contributions are limited to $2,000 per person per election.
In other state campaign fund-raising, Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst reported raising $1.94 million in the first half of the year. He has cash on hand of $372,728.