Texas Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, raised a stunning $6.7 million in the first three months of the year, the Democratic congressman’s campaign announced Tuesday.
O’Rourke, who represents Texas’ 16th District in the state’s western tip around El Paso, had already raised roughly $1.5 million more than the incumbent last year.
Cruz has not yet announced his first-quarter numbers. O’Rourke’s total is the highest among Democratic Senate candidates for the last filing quarter, his campaign noted in a press release.
Perhaps equally staggering is the source of O’Rourke’s haul: He said he received more than 141,000 separate contributions averaging less than $50 per contribution.
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“No PACs, no special interests. Just people,” O’Rourke tweeted about his first-quarter numbers. “More than 141,000 grassroots contributions. Grateful to all of you.”
BREAKING: We raised $6.7 million in the first 3 months of 2018. No PACs, no special interests. Just people. More than 141,000 grassroots contributions. Grateful to all of you. RT to share our news. pic.twitter.com/vt0h5Dpg9Q— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) April 3, 2018
O’Rourke's fundraising performance has little recent historical precedent. GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania raised $31.6 million over six years for his 2016 re-election campaign in that cycle's most expensive Senate race. O’Rourke’s 2018 first-quarter fundraising dwarfs Toomey’s high mark of $4.4 million in the third campaign filing quarter of 2016, the last big fundraising push before the election five weeks later.
Cruz and O’Rourke have until April 15 to file their official first-quarter numbers with the Federal Election Commission, so O’Rourke’s numbers can’t be verified until then.
By mid-February, Cruz had roughly $1 million more cash on hand than O’Rourke — $6 million to $4.9 million, respectively.
A Democrat hasn’t won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, the party’s longest such drought in any state.
The seat O’Rourke is vacating to challenge Cruz is expected to remain safely in Democratic hands. Former county judge Veronica Escobar easily won the Democratic primary last month and is a heavy general election favorite in a seat Clinton carried by 41 points. If elected, she would be the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas, but she may have to share that honor with fellow Democrat Sylvia Garcia, a state senator, who is also a big favorite in the Houston-based 29th District.