New reports released this week, which detail receipts and disbursements in the weeks before and after the election, show that Democrats continued to outperform Republicans in many key races leading up to the election.
But the results proved that the cash advantages did not pay off as much as some had hoped, with no party making any gains in the congressional races.
The most heated challenge against a Republican House member was in Texas’ 21st Congressional District, where former gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis ran against Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21).
Davis outraised Roy by two-to-one, raising and spending $10 million against Roy’s $5 million throughout the past election cycle.
In the latter half of October, Davis’ fundraising continued to outperform Roy’s at an even faster pace — she pulled in $1.5 million, while Roy trailed with $500,000.
But ultimately, Roy won the election with 52 percent of the vote and nearly seven points ahead of Davis — a margin of victory by about 30,000 votes.
The only other challenger to a Republican incumbent to see results as close as in the TX-21 race was in Texas’ 10th Congressional District, where Mike Siegel received 45 percent of the vote against Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-TX-10) 52 percent.
While Siegel fell short of raising or spending more money than McCaul has over the past election cycle, he did outraise the incumbent by $570,000 to $340,000 in the weeks leading up to November 3.
Likewise, Julie Oliver outraised Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX-25) in the last period before the election by about $130,000, but fell behind him in the election by 14 points.
Republican challengers who outraised sitting House Democrats did not perform much better.
Wesley Hunt outraised Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX-07) by $1 million to $450,000 in the final period and by $1.2 million throughout the entire race, but lost by three points.
And Genevieve Collins — supported by $2 million in self-loans to her campaign — essentially matched Rep. Colin Allred’s (D-TX-32) funding throughout the race and in the last few weeks of the campaign, but lost by a wider margin of six points.
The closest challenge from the GOP actually came against Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), with Republican Monica de la Cruz-Hernandez receiving 48 percent of the vote, only 6,000 votes behind the incumbent.
And in that race, the incumbent led in fundraising by $1.2 million total to $421,000 and by $96,000 to $27,000 in the final stretch.
Whereas Democrats were optimistic about potential gains against sitting representatives, perhaps even higher hopes were placed on three open, competitive congressional seats.
And it is in precisely those three seats where the limited effectiveness of money in elections is seen.
The Democratic candidate in each of Texas’ 22nd, 23rd, and 24th Congressional Districts led the Republican in terms of fundraising throughout the past year, with the disparities the greatest in that order.
Sri Preston Kulkarni, the Democrat running against Republican Fort Bend Sheriff Troy Nehls in TX-22, outraised Nehls by $5.8 million to $1.8 million throughout the entire race and pulled ahead in the last few weeks with a sweeping $791,000 to $267,000.
Gina Ortiz Jones, the Democrat in TX-23 who narrowly lost election to the seat in 2018, outraised Republican Tony Gonzales by $6.9 million to $2.8 million — bringing in $677,000 of that against $393,000 in the second half of October.
In terms of finances, the closest of the three races was between Democrat Candace Valenzuela and Republican Beth Van Duyne in TX-24, where Valenzuela raised $4.9 million to Van Duyne’s $3.4 million.
Van Duyne raised $524,000 in the final period, compared to Valenzuela’s $870,000 final haul.
But the order of the three Democrats who performed best in the election was inverse.
Valenzuela lost to Van Duyne’s 167,910 votes to 163,326 in the closest congressional race in the state, waiting a week to concede.
Jones, who was seen by many as the most likely candidate in Texas to flip a congressional seat for Democrats, trailed behind Gonzales by about 11,000 votes or four points.
And in TX-22, Nehls’ margin of victory over Kulkarni was about 28,000 votes or seven points.
While campaign finances undeniably play an important role in general elections, the results in the 2020 congressional races show that they are far from the only factor.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.