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Texas shattered congressional spending records

December 28, 2018

Never has Texas seen as much money spent on Congressional campaigns as it did in 2018.

New campaign finance data shows that the state didn’t just beat its old campaign spending records for Congress, it obliterated them. More than $97 million was poured into the November general election in 2018 for U.S. House. The previous spending record was in 2004 when just under $60 million was spent by candidates running for Congress in Texas.

The record spending for the state’s 36 House seats was spurred by Texas suddenly having a half dozen competitive races that became a key part of the national battle for the control of Congress. Three of those races accounted for nearly one-third of all the spending.

Leading the way was the battle for the 23rd Congressional District, where Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, narrowly beat Air Force veteran and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones. Those candidates combined to spend over $11 million in a race decided by just 926 votes.

In Dallas, more than $10.8 million was spent in the 32nd Congressional District where Democrat and former NFL player Colin Allred upset incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas. And in Houston, Democrat Lizzie Fletcher defeated 18-year incumbent Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston. Those two combined to spent $9.6 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

It wasn’t just those races either. Overall, the 36 Congressional districts averaged more than $2.6 million spent per contest.

That spending doesn’t count candidates who lost in the primaries like Houston Republican Kathaleen Wall, who spent $6.2 million of mostly her own money in a failed attempt to win the 2nd Congressional District primary. Despite not making it to the general election, Wall still ended up spending more money on her race than any House candidate in Texas. Republican Dan Crenshaw, a retired Navy SEAL won the 2nd Congressional District primary and defeated Democrat Todd Litton in November. Crenshaw spent almost $1.7 million on his campaign.

That spending came in the same year that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke set new campaign spending records for the U.S. Senate. Those two combined to spend more than $125 million on their race — the most any two candidates have ever spent on a U.S. Senate race in America.

The spending came in a year filled with broken records. Texas has never had more people run for Congress in 2018 than it did ever before. That helped add to record setting turnout for a midterm election cycle.

jeremy.wallace@chron.com

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