State of Texas: Long shot candidates face challenges

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Mike Collier knows he has a tough road ahead. “I know how steep this hill is, because I’ve run up once before,” Collier said before a campaign event in Austin last week. He’s a Democrat, trying to defeat Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick in the 2018 election.

Patrick has held his position since 2015 after he beat three-term incumbent David Dewhurst. He currently has more than $17 million saved up for his re-election campaign. Collier has less than $2 million.

At his campaign events, Collier touts plans to cut property taxes and fund public education. “You can’t talk about schools without talking about property taxes. You can’t talk about property taxes without talking about schools,” he said before his Austin event. Collier emphasizes that he’s analyzed the numbers from an accountant’s perspective. He touted that same perspective in his failed 2014 bid for State Comptroller.

Patrick Svitek, a reporter with The Texas Tribune, contends that Patrick’s polarizing stance on certain issues and low approval ratings among Texans could work in Collier’s favor although his chances of winning are low.

“He has the benefit in some ways of running against Dan Patrick who, perhaps more than any other statewide Republican official in Texas, is tied to some of the most polarizing recent policy proposals that have been put forward including the bathroom bill,” said Svitek in regard to Patrick’s support of HB2, the bathroom bill. “In terms of running against someone who has a strong opposition to him, [Collier] has that going for him but I do think it’s an uphill battle. He faces all the structural challenges that Democrats do running statewide in Texas.”

Another long shot candidate is showing more success in his bid to unseat a powerful Republican incumbent. Democrat Beto O’Rourke, a Congressman from El Paso, is challenging Sen. Ted Cruz. O’Rourke has earned support and drawn donors since announcing his bid.

O’Rourke outraised Cruz in the second quarter. But the incumbent reclaimed the lead in the third quarter raising $2 million to O’Rourke’s $1.7 million according to Svitek. Although Cruz garnered more financial support O’Rourke received around 7,000 more individual donations than Cruz did which shows that public interest is there for the 45-year-old Texan.

“You can’t beat somebody with nobody and Beto O’Rourke is a somebody. He’s a very attractive candidate. Unlike a string of Texas Republicans who ran on term limits and violated their pledges, he’s keeping those pledges on term limits,” explained Robert Garrett, Austin bureau reporter for The Dallas Morning News. “I think that gives him an entree with independents and people that will at least give him an audience.”

Although Cruz is one of the most prominent Republicans in the nation, Svitek and Garrett think that O’Rourke might be competitive.

“You should just note that the fundraising for [Cruz’s] re-election campaign is subject to different limits than it was for some of his super PAC fundraising during the presidential race,” said Svitek. “But, that number that he does have in the bank, you can make the argument that is somewhat low considering that he’s one of the most prominent Republicans in the entire country and he was the runner-up in his party’s presidential primary in 2016.”

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