The figures include funds raised between July 1 and September 29 and show Hidalgo received $1.15 million.
Mealer has also outspent her opponent, showing expenditures of $3.5 million compared to Hidalgo’s $569,065.
Mealer’s fundraising success topped all state-wide candidates except for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic gubernatorial challenger Beto O’Rourke. Her largest donation of $400,000 came from real estate developer Richard Weekley.
Other top donors to Mealer include Houston-area business leaders Alan Hassenflu, who also serves on the Texans for Lawsuit Reform board, and Jeffrey and Melinda Hildebrand of Hilcorp Energy, but contributors also include numerous small donations from local Harris County residents of as little as $4.00.
With recent polls consistently showing community concern over rising crime and the county’s approach to public safety spending, Mealer’s donors unsurprisingly include law enforcement groups such as the La Porte Police Officers Association and the Houston Police Officers Union. Precinct Five Constable Ted Heap also contributed $50,000.
Hidalgo touts donations from Democratic political action committees (PAC) such as Way to Lead Texas as well as union groups including Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO Gulf Coast, the American Federation of Teachers, and Midwest Region Laborers, the latter based in Springfield, IL.
Hidalgo also took in $20,000 from the Jane Fonda Climate PAC, whose stated goal is to “do what it takes to defeat fossil fuel supporters and elect climate champions at all levels of government.” Fonda will also be speaking at a fundraiser for Hidalgo later this month in Houston.
Among Hidalgo’s in-kind donations are research efforts from Washington, D.C.-based Lone Star Project PAC totaling $35,000 and canvassing activities totaling $20,000 from the progressive Texas Organizing Project. While Hidalgo’s report includes many small donations, she has also drawn numerous out of state donations from California, Maryland, and New York.
Although an August poll of 195 voters showed Hidalgo with a comfortable 10-point lead, the most recent poll of 900 likely voters flipped to show Mealer 4 points ahead. In addition to endorsements from all of the region’s law enforcement associations, the Houston Chronicle editorial board also announced a surprise endorsement for Mealer on Wednesday.
Following the newspaper’s announcement, Hidalgo’s campaign staff sent out a fundraising request attributing the endorsement to the “good ole boys’ club” and took to social media to proclaim that her campaign has set a record for individual contributors. Her report also shows numerous small donations of as little as $1.00.
Under Hidalgo’s leadership, the county settled a federal misdemeanor bail lawsuit under a controversial consent decree that led to more support and services for criminal defendants and new policies under which most misdemeanor offenders are released without having to post bond. Hidalgo and the Democrats on the commissioners court had moved to settle a similar lawsuit over felony bail with the same conditions, but were thwarted when Attorney General Ken Paxton gained intervenor status in the case.
Hidalgo has also been criticized for seeking the release of thousands of jail inmates during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns and for opposing expansions of the county’s jail capacity. Although she has touted increases in public safety spending, her calculations include free Wi-Fi, bike trails, and adding sidewalks and streetlights to blighted areas.
While Hidalgo has resisted calls for adding patrol officers to county-funded law enforcement agencies, Mealer promises to add an additional 1,000 “boots on the ground” and to increase police pay and ramp up officer recruitment efforts.
In addition to concerns over public safety, residents polled by the University of Houston’s Hobby School also listed government corruption as a top issue, likely a reflection of the felony indictments of three Hidalgo staffers earlier this year over an $11 million COVID-19 vaccine outreach contract awarded to a highly connected Democratic strategist. The criminal trial for the three is scheduled for after the election, but Hidalgo has stated publicly that she expects to be indicted as well.
The next campaign finance reports are due on October 31, just 8 days before the November 8 election.
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Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.