Republican candidates for county office have widened the fundraising gap over Democratic opponents ahead of the November midterm elections, according to campaign finance reports submitted Oct. 11.
With 30 days until the election, Republicans brought in more funds across the board. In the races for county commissioner in northwest and southeast Tarrant County, the numbers were not close — a difference of $55,000 in the northwest and about $184,000 in the southeast between the Democrat and Republican candidates.
In total, Republican candidates have received nearly $847,000 between July 1 and Sept. 29. County Judge candidate Tim O’Hare is leading the pack with nearly $600,000 raised, followed by Precinct 2 Commissioner candidate Andy Nguyen, with over $190,000, and Precinct 4 Commissioner candidate Manny Ramirez, at almost $55,000.
The three Democratic candidates raised about $110,000 combined. Democrat Deborah Peoples raised the most with about $102,000, followed by Precinct 2 candidate Alisa Simmons at about $6,000 and Precinct 4 candidate Cedric Kanyinda with zero contributions, only taking out a $1,800 personal loan to fund his campaign.
The disparity in donations will be a big help in establishing name recognition in the final days of the election but doesn’t cement a win for Republicans on the commissioners court, said Thomas Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
“The most important thing is, ‘What’s the partisan composition of the district?” Marshall said. “(Donations) help raise name ID. It also beefs up the organization because we’re probably at the point in which you really got to communicate with people in terms of mailers and door knocking.”
O’Hare leads county judge fundraising with major PAC support
O’Hare netted over $600,000 in donations over four months, spending about half of that money simultaneously. The former Tarrant County Republican Party chair is left with about $286,000 going into the final stretch of the election.
Peoples raised about $101,000 in donations and spent about $88,000. The former Tarrant County Democratic Party chair and 2021 mayoral candidate will maintain about $129,000 heading into November.
The cash on hand remaining for both candidates is “respectable,” Marshall said.
“If they’re spending $1 or $1.50 per household, they’re probably spending a respectable amount,” Marshall said.
There were about 722,446 households in Tarrant County in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, candidates are likely looking to target known Democratic or Republican households.
A number of notable Tarrant County conservative officials donated to O’Hare, including:
- $1,000 from Precinct 3 commissioner Gary Fickes who represents Hurst
- $5,000 from County Clerk Thomas Wilder
- $2,000 from District Attorney Sharen Wilson
The O’Hare campaign did not respond to a request for comment on fundraising before publication deadline.
Peoples received support from liberal state and local elected officials, including:
- $2,000 from Congressman Marc Veasey
- $1,000 from State Rep. and House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner
- $300 from District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck and her campaign
- $250 from District 6 council member Jared Williams
Peoples received over 1,500 donations in four months. However, most of the donations were in the $10 to $50 range. Peoples received an average donation of $70.02.
“After our campaign received over 1,500 individual contributions from all corners of Tarrant County, it’s clear that there’s only one candidate in this race who has broad, people-powered support,” Peoples said in a statement.
Focusing on raising a high number of smaller donations makes expanding a candidate’s war chest more challenging, Marshall said.
“The truth is that small donations are expensive to raise,” Marshall said. “You can’t fund a serious countywide campaign on just $100 donations. It’s too difficult to do that.”
In contrast, O’Hare received an average donation of $1,978 from his 303 donors. His largest donation, of about $100,000, came from the We Can Keep It PAC, which previously donated $103,000 to the O’Hare campaign in February.
The committee’s primary donor is Hollis Sullivan, founder of Veritas Energy, who has contributed about $210,500 to the PAC, according to a political contribution database maintained by Transparency USA.
The committee endorses, supports and advises “Political Candidates and Political Action Committees with Biblical values,” according to the committee’s website. The website lists the PAC’s support for Tim O’Hare, Republican House District 93 candidate Nate Schatzline, former Republican District Attorney candidate Matt Krause, Southlake Families PAC, Tarrant County Conservatives and Stand for Fort Worth.
“I’m honored to have their support in this race,” O’Hare previously told the Report.
Records show the committee was formed on Jan. 17. The PAC’s treasurer, Asher Gillaspie, is also listed as the campaign manager for Schatzline, a first-time candidate who won a May 24 runoff to represent north Fort Worth.
Peoples didn’t receive any support from political action committees.
Tim O’Hare’s top donors include notable business leaders. Ross Perot Jr., chairman of Hillwood Development Company, donated $25,000. Randall Cate, the now-retired President of Cogent Energy, donated $50,000. Darius and Dena Maggi donated $29,000 and $25,000 to O’Hare’s Campaign.
Peoples’ highest donors include $2,500 contributions from Bob Benda, board chairman of Westwood Contractors and Cantey Hanger Attorneys.
O’Hare contributed about $281,800 to other political groups and campaigns. The campaign donated $280,300 to the Republican Party of Texas and $1,000 to Texans for Greg Abbott.
Peoples’ largest expenditure was $25,000 for television advertisements.
Disparity in county commissioner fundraising looms large
In the competitive and crucial Precinct 2 race, Republican candidate Andy Nguyen raised over $190,000 in donations and spent about $177,000 within the same time period. Nguyen is left with nearly $77,000 left in cash just 30 days before the Nov. 11 election. The average donation to Nguyen was $941.
Notable donations include a $25,000 donation from Defend Texas Liberty PAC and a $50,000 donation from retiree Stephen Lockwood.
Defend Texas Liberty PAC was founded by former Republican State Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford and is backed by West Texas oil tycoons Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks. O’Hare also received campaign funds from this PAC.
Other big-name supporters include:
- $5,000 from the Texas Association of Realtors PAC
- $5,000 from the Tarrant County Law Enforcement Association
- $4,000 from the Keep Tarrant Red PAC
- $2,500 from the Arlington Republican Club
- $800 from the Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder
- $750 from Precinct 3 commissioner Gary Fickes
- $500 District Attorney candidate Phil Sorrells
Nguyen’s largest expenditure was a $100,000 donation to the Republican Party of Texas and a $15,000 donation to Team Tarrant PAC, a local right-leaning political action committee backing several Republican candidates in Tarrant County.
Nguyen’s counterpart, Democrat Alisa Simmons, has received just over $6,000 and has spent more than twice that amount between July 1 and Sept. 29. She has $10,660 cash remaining on hand.
Simmons’ modest fundraising effort is surprising, Marshall said. The amount of money contributed is likely a sign of an ineffective campaign in the final weeks of the election, Marshall said.
“On the other hand, that is a competitive district in terms of the baseline vote. The Democrats won it last time,” he said.
The average donation to Simmons’ campaign is $270. Her largest donation was $1,000.
“I’m proud of the coalition of hundreds of donors and volunteers who share my vision to make county government work for the people of Tarrant County,” Nguyen said in a statement.
The Simmons campaign did not respond to requests for comment on her fundraising efforts prior to publication time.
On the Northwest side of the county, Republican Precinct 4 candidate Manny Ramirez raised just under $55,000 and has over $108,000 cash left on hand. He spent about $28,000 between July 1 and Sept. 29.
Ramirez’s largest donation is $12,500 contribution from Randall Stepp. Other notable donors to Ramirez’s campaign include:
- $2,500 from Tarrant County Law Enforcement Association
- $2,500 from New York Sergeants Benevolent Association, a police labor union in New York
- $1,000 from Bryan Eppstein, political consultant
- $1,000 from Thomas Wilder, Tarrant County district clerk
- $500 from Jody Johnson, Tarrant County Precinct 4 constable and Ramirez’s opponent in the primaries
- $250 from Cary Moon, former city council member
- $250 from Mike Moncrief, former Fort Worth mayor
- $200 from Gary Fickes, Precinct 3 County Commissioner
“Money’s not everything, but what it shows is enthusiasm from our leaders, both past and present, our small business owners in town and our citizens, who want to see principled conservative leaders in office and really want to see the next generation of leaders step up,” Ramirez told the Report.
Cedric Kanyinda, the Democrat running to represent Precinct 4, did not raise any funds during this cycle, according to campaign finance reports. However, he took out a $1,800 loan back in April.
“A person who just isn’t raising any money and not putting any of their own in is just basically not running a campaign,” Marshall said. “It’s not a competitive situation.”
When asked about his lack of fundraising, Kanyinda said it wasn’t fair for him to ask people for money when “everybody is hurting.” Instead, he said, he has been asking supporters to volunteer their time and spread his campaign message.
“Finances do play a big role in campaigning, but I think my strategy of asking people to volunteer their time will be the winning strategy. I think it will be a game-changing election,” Kanyinda said.
Ramirez spent nearly $17,000 on consulting and advertising with the political consulting firm Murphy Nasica.
The firm has worked on several local, state and federal Republican campaigns, including Gov. Greg Abbott, state Sen. Kelly Hancock, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson and Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn. Fort Worth council members Gyna Bivens and Carlos Flores and former councilman Cary Moon have also used the firm’s services.
Going into the final stretch of the election, voters will likely see candidates using their remaining funds on television ads, billboards, mailers and block walking groups, Marshall said.
“I think we’re in for another month of attack ads,” Marshall said.
Editor’s note: this story was updated on Oct. 14 to better reflect Manny Ramirez’s campaign contributions.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for fortworthreport.org. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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