AUSTIN – In her bid to unseat Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison has built a financial beachhead in Dallas, taking in nearly 40 percent of her contributions from her hometown in the last half of 2009.
Hutchison raised more than $2.2 million from the city, according to her latest campaign finance report. And she tapped some big names in Big D – Ross Perot and his son have given a combined $160,000. Real estate investor Harlan Crow has added $60,000. Also helping Hutchison: philanthropist Peter O'Donnell, airline entrepreneur Herb Kelleher and Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach.
All told, nearly half of Hutchison's money came from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The money roughly reflects what could be a split in strength when Perry and Hutchison face off in the March 2 Republican primary. Perry, the incumbent who has been in charge of state government for nine years, led Hutchison almost 4-to-1 in Austin, where most of his support has come from lobbyists and interest groups with business before the state. And he has outraised her in Houston.
Hutchison spokeswoman Jen Baker said the senator's fundraising totals reflect widespread backing by voters and donors.
"Kay enjoys broad support across Texas both with the grass-roots and campaign contributors," Baker said. "People are ready for new leadership in Austin."
Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Hutchison's dependence on Dallas reflects a problem appealing to voters across Texas.
"Just like her campaign, the senator doesn't have very much support from around the state," he said. "The governor is proud of the support he's received from all over."
The candidates are expected to spend roughly $25 million each in their quest for the GOP nomination and millions more if there is a runoff.
Perry raised $7.1 million in the last six months of 2009, and Hutchison collected $6.1 million. As they enter the final stretch of the primary showdown, Hutchison has slightly more money in the bank.
A computer-assisted review of the latest campaign finance reports, which includes contributions in the last six months, found the following:
•Although Perry has targeted Hutchison as part of Washington, he collected more money from D.C. than the senator did. Contributors inside the Beltway gave the governor $37,500, half of that from tobacco interests. Hutchison collected $19,900 from Washington, including railroad and airline interests.
•Two-thirds of the $958,471 Perry collected from Austin came from lobbyists and political committees for various interests including Realtors, car dealers, highway contractors and energy companies. His biggest nonlobbyist donation was $50,000 from Austin high-tech executive John McHale, a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes.
•Hutchison has attracted a number of former big-dollar Perry backers. Among the switchers are Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton ($25,000), San Antonio contractor Bartell Zachry ($25,000), El Paso investor J. Robert Brown ($50,000) and TXU chairman emeritus Erle Nye of Dallas (45,000).
•One of Perry's most reliable donors, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation), led the latest list of contributors with $200,000. The governor pushed lawmakers to create a housing agency sought by Bob Perry, but opposition from homeowners who complained it was designed to protect builders prompted the Legislature to abolish it. His biggest Dallas donors were oilman T. Boone Pickens, who gave $100,000, and energy pipeline executive Ray Davis, who provided $50,000.
•The third candidate in the GOP race, activist Debra Medina, trailed far behind Hutchison and Perry. And most of the $191,000 that Medina raised came from outside Texas' major cities. Of her total, only 17 percent came from Houston, 6 percent from Austin and 2 percent from Dallas.
Medina has been conducting a grass-roots campaign aimed at wooing populist, Tea Party-movement Republicans.
•Hutchison raised more than twice as much money as Perry in Dallas. The reports suggest that one reason that Hutchison trailed Perry in fundraising in Houston is because some fundraisers there have been delayed because of votes in the U.S. Senate.
As for Perry's advantage in Austin, Miner said the governor was pleased by the money he has received from political committees.
"These associations represent industry groups and trade associations that work on behalf of thousands of Texas," the spokesman said.
Baker said Perry's success raising money from the capital underscores his "pay-to-play politics."
"It's not surprising that coercive tactics of pressuring [university] regents and making policy decisions to help campaign contributors has helped raise special-interest money in Austin," she said.
Whatever the geographical differences in fundraising, the candidates were more successful in the towns where they grew up.
Perry got $1,065 from Haskell, compared with $50 for Hutchison.
In La Marque, where Hutchison went to high school and launched her campaign for governor, residents donated $1,025 to her. Perry got zero.