AUSTIN — U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke raised more than $10.4 million in three months for his Senate campaign, an unprecedented fundraising amount for a Democrat seeking statewide office in Texas.
It is the largest quarterly haul to-date for O’Rourke, who is looking to oust Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and become the first Democrat from Texas to be elected to the seat in 30 years.
The latest campaign finance numbers bring O’Rourke’s total donations to more than $23.6 million. He has $14 million left in the bank, according to his campaign.
Since launching his campaign, O’Rourke has consistently outraised Cruz. The Democrat broke records earlier this year when he reported $6.7 million in contributions during the first months of the year, more than any other U.S. Senate candidate from Texas.
“Things are going well,” O’Rourke said in an interview.
Cruz’s campaign is expected to release his fundraising totals for the quarter later this week. The Washington Examiner reported on Monday that Cruz raised $4 million and has $10 million on hand.
With these new numbers, Cruz and his affiliated fundraising PACs will have raised $17.5 million during the campaign.
Both candidates are required to submit their fundraising totals and a detailed report of contributions to the Federal Election Commission on Sunday.
O’Rourke’s campaign said the $10.4 raised so far came from more than 215,000 individual contributions. About 70 percent of those donors were from Texas.
A defining feature of O’Rourke’s campaign has been his refusal to accept money from political action committees or corporations. He often touts what he calls his “people powered” campaign.
“The more that we travel, the more places we show up to and the more times we show up, the more people make the decision to get involved and become a part of this,” O’Rourke said. “More than ever, this campaign is unlike anything we’ve seen in Texas, certainly unlike anything I’ve seen in Texas. It’s also a reminder that I’m part of something comprised of hundreds of thousands of people who are making something really special happen in Texas.”
O’Rourke entered the race against Cruz more than a year ago as a virtually unknown lawmaker outside of his hometown of El Paso. He reported strong fundraising numbers early in the race, but many political observers were skeptical that he could pose a serious threat to the well-established Cruz.
Since then, O’Rourke has kept busy. He has campaigned in each of the state’s 254 counties, holding town halls and taking meetings with community leaders. His unconventional campaign methods and fundraising abilities have drawn national attention.
Several polls show O’Rourke within 10 to 15 points of Cruz, with four months to go until the general election.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said the “massive amount of money” O’Rourke is reporting for the quarter will help dispel any lingering doubt voters might have about his ability to compete against Cruz.
“The reality now matches the hype,” Rottinghaus said. “That’s something they’ve struggled with. There’s a narrative that it’s all trumped up and just national Democrats wanting to unseat the unpopular Ted Cruz. This money makes that look real. It is no longer a myth that O’Rourke is a competitive candidate.”
But challenges remain for O’Rourke, Rottinghaus said.
He said O’Rourke needs to make smart choices with how he spends the money he’s bringing in, and that includes advertising in different markets on television and radio.
“The biggest concern the O’Rourke campaign faces is name recognition and Democratic enthusiasm,” Rottinghaus said. “Money can solve both of those problems.”
Follow Madlin Mekelburg on Twitter; @madlinbmek
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2Lay6Oi