AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that he’s starting his re-election bid with nearly $41 million on hand, giving the Republican who has no major Democratic opponent in sight a big and formidable head start on any potential challenger in 2018.
The fundraising total is nearly twice the money Abbott started with when he launched his first run for governor in 2013. He easily defeated Democrat Wendy Davis by 20 points in the 2014 election.
The task will be no easier this time for Texas Democrats, who haven’t won a statewide race since 1994. Democrats are still looking for a candidate to take on Abbott.
Abbott formally announced his run for re-election Friday and is reviving anti-abortion measures, school finance reforms and a “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people in a special legislative session that begins Tuesday.
“In the upcoming election, our campaign will be relentless in our efforts to identify and turn out conservatives to keep Texas red,” Abbott said in a statement.
This week is a deadline for campaign finance filings in Texas. Abbott — who has long been a prolific fundraiser in the Lone Star State, which has no limits on campaign contributions — said 45 percent of his latest haul was from first-time donors. The names of his contributors and how much they gave are due to the Texas Ethics Commission by midnight Monday.
Texas is an expensive place to run a statewide campaign. In 2014, Abbott and Davis spent more than $80 million combined.
At least one big name has said he won’t run against Abbott — Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was the Texas chairman of then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and has led the push to require transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate. Patrick is popular among Texas’ influential social conservatives but has repeatedly said he won’t challenge Abbott in a GOP primary.