July 21, 2017 By
Primary challenges aren’t all that unusual in the Texas Republican Party but most of the time it is some fringe candidate with no chance of winning going up against an ‘establishment’ guy. In the race for Texas HD23, we do see an ‘establishment’ type in the form of Rep. Wayne Faircloth, who was first elected in 2014. But this time he has a very, very serious challenger by the name of Mayes Middleton. I suspect that Rep. Faircloth is in deep trouble.
Why? Because Faircloth has no grassroots or activist support. Truth is, he never has but he didn’t have a serious challenger in the 2014 primary and he was viewed as the best chance to take that seat from the Democrats after Craig Eiland retired. And it worked to everyone’s benefit as Galveston County was changing from blue to red. He hasn’t been a disaster for the party but neither has he been a leader. You can look at his committee assignments, bills authored and press statements to understand this.
You can also look at his campaign finance reports, which I did.
I included the January report to give a better representation of his fundraising ability and number of contributors. If you look at it casually, it looks like his fundraising is okay, not stellar but I’ve seen much worse. The problem comes when you look deeper. Here is what his report from January looks like if you break it down into something most of us can understand.
|15-JAN-17||CONTRIBUTIONS||MEDIAN||NUMBER OF CONT|
So in reality, more than half of his reported contributions were In-Kind, mostly from large PAC’s including him in their mailers for the November 2016 election. That’s nice and helpful but it doesn’t allow you to direct your campaign. Plus, most of those organizations won’t be as big of players in a primary challenge.
As for the Entities, those are also PAC’s but they gave directly to his campaign. Again, those types of organizations usually aren’t in play in a primary because they need to mitigate their risk if their chosen candidate loses.
The most telling are the 21 Individual donations. Sure, he had some big name support (James Dannenbaum, Charles Butt, Tilman Fertitta) and it is possible that they could write much larger checks if they need to. The problem is that he had one, count ’em one, contribution under a $100. That’s a problem in a primary, where enthusiastic support is needed versus a general where it is more about a voter’s party choice.
Okay, enough about Rep. Faircloth. What about his challenger? Well, let’s take a look.
Obviously the first thing anyone is going to notice is that $485,000 loan. I don’t care who you are, that’s a lot of money. The second thing that the more observant are going to notice is that the numbers don’t balance. I mean, if you loan yourself $485k, raise $60k, spend $37k, you should have more than $480k on hand. Why? Beats me. I see this all the time and have never tried to figure out why. Perhaps you can.
More important for our purposes is the rest of the report. Recall from Rep. Faircloth’s report that 93% of his contributions were from Entities, not Individuals. Mr. Middleton, on the other hand, had one contribution from an Entity, that being Hoover Slovacek LLP for $500. Interestingly, that is the firm of the Harris County Republican Party Finance Chair Joe Slovacek.
Not that Mr. Middleton didn’t score a few big donors, he certainly did. Perennial large Republican donors Holly Frost, Windi Grimes and Wilkes Farris made large contributions. But they aren’t the story this time. The story is the number of smaller contributors and who they are. I’m not going to name them all but everyone knows Galveston County Tax Assessor Collector Cheryl Johnson. And then you have the Senate District Director for SD11 Scott Bowen. Further down the list you have the Texas SREC rep from SD11 Tanya Robertson. The activists in the district seem to have chosen a side.
And instead of one contribution under $100, Mr. Middleton has 179 individual contributors at $50 or less. Make fun of small donors all you want but if you give a guy $5 and you live in his district, you are going to vote for him.
Mr. Middleton also has the enthusiastic backing of the Empower Texans mail list, an important force in Republican primaries. Like I said earlier, I suspect that Rep. Faircloth is in trouble.