Feburary 2, 2020

Democrat Mama Has Gene Kelly Reincarnation Potential
as Unknown Senate Contender Who's Third in New Poll

Texas House Incumbents Texas House Primary Open  
Texas Senate Primary Texas Congress Primary  

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

U.S. Senate Fundraising
Texas Election 2020

January-December 2019
Campaign Loans
Cash December 31
John Cornyn (R-Inc)
4th Quarter: $2,080,642
Total Donations: $7,249,838
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $12,116,658
MJ Hegar (D)
4th Quarter: $981,161
Total Donations: $2,981,852
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $1,003,653
Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez (D)
4th Quarter: $346,476
Total Donations: $805,919
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $229,240
Amanda Edwards (D)
4th Quarter: $214,745
Total Donations: $770,359
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $330,993
Royce West (D)
4th Quarter: $404,806
Total Donations: $753,910
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $527,706
Chris Bell (D)
4th Quarter: $111,615
Total Donations: $307,938
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $8,000
Annie "Mama" Garcia (D)
4th Quarter: $0
Total Donations: $0
Campaign Loans: $10,000
Cash on Hand: $3,941

Source: Federal
Election Commission

The ghost of the Gene Kelly who never sang in the Hollywood rain could be coming back to haunt the Democrats in Texas almost 20 years after leaving them red-faced in his wake as the U.S. Senate nominee in the Lone Star State in 2000.

U.S. Senate hopeful Annie "Mama" Garcia might have a chance to pull the rug out from under the Democratic Party establishment here much like Kelly did two decades back as a candidate who has little more than a Spanish surname with a catchy ballot handle in a field with several better-known rivals who appear to be going nowhere fast.

Garcia vaulted from the ranks of political unknown to the frontrunners ring on Sunday when a new poll of Democratic voters in Texas found her running third in a field that features 15 primary rivals in the fight for the job that Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn is seeking again in 2020.

Garcia only had 5 percent of the Democrats here in her corner in the poll that the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler conducted in January in a collaborative venture that made its debut today.

But Garcia was only 3 points behind MJ Hegar of Georgetown in the DMN-UT Tyler survey that found State Senator Royce West of Dallas leading her by a single point with only one month to go before Texans trek to the polls for the Super Tuesday primary election.

A Houston attorney who bills herself as a pragmatic progressive, Garcia appeared to be siphoning support from Cristina TzinTzun Ramirez - an Austin labor activist who'd been leading the pack of Democratic contenders in the U.S. Senate race here in the last poll that the East Texas public university had taken here last fall.

Ramirez saw her support plummet from 9 percent in the UT Tyler poll in November to a mere 4 percent in the survey that the school's political center teamed up with the Dallas newspaper to take during a nine-day period last month. Ramirez, who'd been touted by NBC News last week as a rising Texas star, was tied for fourth with Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards in the poll that was made public today.

Garcia's surprisingly strong showing in the DMN-UT Tyler survey conjured visions of the Democratic primary that Kelly won in a runoff in a bid for the U.S. Senate in Texas when then-Governor George W. Bush was the GOP nominee in his first race for the White House.

Kelly had been a perennial candidate in races for various statewide offices in Texas where he rarely if ever spent any money beyond the cost of primary filing fees. But Kelly finally got his first and only major break when Democratic voters apparently got him confused with the dead actor who'd been a star in a long list of movies that were based on Broadway musicals in the 1940s and 1950s.

Kelly the entertainer had died four years before Kelly the candidate emerged as the U.S. Senate nominee for the Democrats in Texas with a primary runoff victory over Charles Gandy - a former state lawmaker who'd been the state party's unofficial choice in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent an electoral embarrassment.

Kelly had finished first in the initial primary election with almost 26 percent of the vote in 2000 when Gandy advanced to overtime with less than 23 percent. The Texas Democratic Party abandoned its ostensible neutrality in round two when it let it be known that it was all in on the Gandy campaign in a state where the primary victor would be facing the incumbent Republican Kay Bailey Hutchsion in the general election that year.

But some of the Democratic Party's top donors and leaders had decided that it would be wise to ignore the U.S. Senate race as a way to keep Bush from pouring substantial sums of money into the top statewide race in a move that could have spillover effect on down-ballot fights for the Texas House that the Democrats still controlled. The state party's attempt to bail Gandy out proved to be too little too late when Kelly seized the U.S. Senate nomination with 58 percent of the vote.

Kelly kept his tradition of never campaigning intact before Hutchison waltzed to a new Senate term with 65 percent of the vote in the general election at a time when the Democrats had been claiming to be in the midst of a comeback in the aftermath of the GOP sweep at the statewide level in 1998.

Gandy, who'd served one term in the Texas House before a losing re-election race in 1994, was no Mahatma Ghandi when it came to voter recognition. But Garcia the current U.S. Senate candidate wouldn't be considered as a truly serious contender based on her fundraising report when sized up against the major opposition in the upcoming primary vote.

Hegar has been the most successful fundraiser by far so far in the Democratic primary sweepstakes after rounding up almost $3 million from donors in 2019 including more than $981,000 in the final three months of the year. Hegar decided to raise her sights after coming close but short in a race for Congress in Central Texas in a Republican-leaning district. She entered January with a war chest that contained $1 million - about one dollar for every 12 that Cornyn had socked away at the end of December.

Ramirez generated nearly $806,000 from contributors last year including $346,000 in the fourth quarter when Edwards reported donations to her campaign of nearly $215,000. Edwards and West raised $770,000 and $754,000 respectively in 2019. U.S. Senate candidate Chris Bell - a former Houston congressman and gubernatorial nominee - raked in $308,000 last year with about one-third of that amount coming in the fourth quarter.

But Garcia didn't appear to need a lot of campaign cash to be competitive - if the new poll is on the mark - after raising nothing from supporters in 2019 when she got her U.S. Senate bid off the ground with a $10,000 personal infusion that she guaranteed but did not report as a loan to the Federal Election Commission. Garcia headed into January with less than $4,000 in the campaign bank.


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