AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Out of range of the circular firing squad dominating the Republican primary, Democrats are staging their own, much cheaper, much quieter tussle for their party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Former state Rep. Paul Sadler and political newcomer Sean Hubbard are the top-tier candidates fighting for the nomination in next Tuesday’s primary, but are doing it mostly by word of mouth and small campaign events.
That’s because most of the Democratic money in Texas is flying to races in other states where Democrats think they can win. That leaves Sadler and Hubbard to scratch for pennies on the dollar compared to the mega-millions being spent by Republicans in their primary.
“I’m shocked by it,” Sadler said. “Democratic donors have given a tremendous amount of money out of state. There’s a culture that has kind of developed of people who just don’t believe a Democrat can win in this state.”
There’s a reason for that.
Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. Even when President Barack Obama won in 2008, Republican John McCain won Texas by a wide margin.
Hubbard thinks that could change if people could only hear the Democrats’ message of an alternative to the GOP stranglehold on the state.
“We haven’t given us a reason to vote Democrat in a really long time,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard says Democrats have allowed Republicans to define them as “killing babies and taking people’s guns away. We’re not the pro-abortion party. We’re the pro-letting women make their own decisions party. We’re the party of Medicare and Social Security. We’re the party of fairer taxes. We’re the party of opportunity.”
That message is hard to deliver without any money.
According to a recent Houston Chronicle analysis of federal election records, of the $21 million Texas Democrats have given to candidates running for federal office, political action committees and political parties for 2012, only $4.8 million has gone to candidates from Texas.
And the Texas Senate candidates are barely seeing a trickle of that cash flow into their bank accounts.
Sadler has raised less than $80,000, Hubbard less than half that with $30,000. That kind of money barely buys radio ads. Television? Forget about it.
“I’ve been from Amarillo to Brownsville and every stop in between. I have a legislative record that speaks for itself. I cannot get people to donate,” Sadler said.
Meanwhile, the Republican fight between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, former state solicitor general Ted Cruz and former football player and television sports analyst Craig James is burning through millions of dollars and dominating the airwaves.
Some of that is self-funded. Dewhurst, reportedly worth more than $200 million, has given his campaign $9.2 million.
Sadler and Hubbard can’t give themselves that kind of boost. Sadler, 57, is an attorney from Henderson in East Texas. He served in the state House from 1991-2003 where he was regarded as one of the smartest lawmakers, capable of passing some of the most complex legislation from state budgets to education policy.
Sadler has an office-holder’s resume, although it is a decade old. Hubbard, from the Dallas area, is 31 and looks more like he’s 21. He has been a Democratic party activist and small businessman before jumping into the politics as a candidate. Trolling for dollars, Hubbard was in McAllen on Wednesday night for a meet-and-greet wine and cheese fundraiser hosted by a friend.
Also on the Democratic primary ballot are Addie Dainell Allen, a federal employee from Beaumont, and Grady Yarbrough, a retired educator from San Antonio.
Hubbard is confident that winning the nomination would bring national attention and money to his campaign.
“I’ve talked to people who have said, ‘Get through the primary and we’ll make sure you have money to work with,'” Hubbard said.
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