By PAUL J. WEBER
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrat Beto O’Rourke on Friday reported raising nearly $32 million in his bid for Texas governor during the first half of 2022, more than Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and a haul that puts their race on track to smash spending records in November’s midterm elections.
The new figures, released as campaign finance reports were due in Texas, put Abbott in the rare position of finding himself outraised. For nearly a decade, the two-term incumbent has pulled in more money than any governor in U.S. history, a stockpile that has overwhelmed rivals and kept challengers at bay.
Abbott has raised more than $30 million since the beginning of the year — a significant total even by his big-money track record, and only slightly less than O’Rourke. Abbott also still holds an advantage with money to spend, reporting more than $46 million in cash on hand as of June 30.
But the narrowing gap underlines O’Rourke’s durability as a fundraising powerhouse and how money is pouring into high-profile governor’s races even as inflation and President Joe Biden’s sagging approval creates strong headwinds for Democrats with voters.
In Georgia, another red state that Democrats are aggressively trying to flip, Democrat Stacey Abrams last week reported raising $22 million over the previous two months, far outpacing incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
“We are building a grassroots campaign to reach voters across Texas and WIN on the night of November 8,” O’Rourke tweeted.
O’Rourke said he raised more than $27 million during the most recent fundraising period between February and June. During that span, there was a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde and Texas outlawed virtually all abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
O’Rourke sharpened his attacks on Abbott after both events, calling for new firearm restrictions that the two-term governor does not support and reinstating abortion access. Abbott, meanwhile, has kept a heavy focus on expanding his massive security operation on the U.S.-Mexico border as the number of migrants entering the county remains high.
During the same four-month period, Abbott’s campaign said it raised nearly $25 million.
O’Rourke remains an underdog in Texas, where no Democrat has won a statewide race in nearly 30 years. Former President Donald Trump carried Texas by 5.5 points in 2020, and some recent public polling has given Abbott a roughly similar lead.
Texas has no limits on campaign contributions.
O’Rourke said he received more than 511,000 contributions during the latest fundraising period. That’s more than four times as many as Abbott, who reported 113,000 contributions and whose campaigns have long been supercharged by six- and seven-figure donations from wealthy Texas executives.
The numbers reported by both campaigns, which were made ahead of campaign finance filings becoming publicly available, did not break down the largest donors.
“As we move into the heat of the summer campaign, we’re well positioned to fund all our campaign efforts,” Gardner Pate, chairman of Abbott’s campaign, said in a statement.