O’Rourke raises a for­tune to fund key Sen­ate race

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NATION - By Will Weis­sert

AUSTIN, Texas — Demo­crat Beto O’Rourke said Fri­day that he raised a record-break­ing $38.1 mil­lion in the past three months, more than tripling the amount of his Repub­li­can op­po­nent, Sen. Ted Cruz, in a Texas race that’s be­come one of the coun­try’s hottest — if not its clos­est.

O’Rourke said the fund­ing came from more than 800,000 donors na­tion­wide de­spite re­fus­ing do­na­tions from out­side po­lit­i­cal groups and de­clin­ing to hire con­sul­tants and poll­sters. The El Paso con­gress­man has be­come a star in na­tional lib­eral cir­cles, and his to­tals through Sept. 30 broke quar­terly Sen­ate fundrais­ing records for non-self-funded cam­paigns.

“This is a his­toric cam­paign of peo­ple: all peo­ple, all the time, ev­ery­where, ev­ery sin­gle day — that’s how we’re go­ing to win this elec­tion,” O’Rourke said in a state­ment.

Cruz pre­vi­ously an­nounced rais­ing $12 mil­lion over the same pe­riod. He had pre­dicted, cor­rectly as it turns out, that O’Rourke would triple that.

But O’Rourke’s good news comes amid polls that have be­gun to show him trail­ing Cruz by about 10 per­cent­age points af­ter clos­ing to within strik­ing dis­tance ear­lier in the race. No Demo­crat has won statewide of­fice in Texas since 1994.

De­spite his long­shot sta­tus, O’Rourke has now out­raised Cruz ev­ery quar­ter but one since an­nounc­ing in March 2017 that he was giv­ing up his House seat to run for Sen­ate. He’s at­tracted at­ten­tion through­out Texas and be­yond with an en­er­getic cam­paign that has taken him to all of the state’s 254 coun­ties — even deep red ar­eas Democrats gave up on decades ago — and for a col­or­ful back­ground that in­cludes a stint with a punk rock band.

All that money en­sures both can­di­dates will be able to flood the air­waves in ma­jor me­dia mar­kets around Texas be­fore the Nov. 6 elec­tion. Cruz — and out­side groups sup­port­ing him — have re­leased a se­ries of at­tack ads, crit­i­ciz­ing O’Rourke for his stance on im­mi­gra­tion and his pub­licly de­fend­ing NFL player protests dur­ing the na­tional an­them.

O’Rourke has re­fused to go neg­a­tive, in­stead re­cently record­ing a 30-sec­ond TV spot in real-time on Face­book live, declar­ing: “You’ve prob­a­bly seen the neg­a­tive at­tack ads seek­ing to scare you about what we’re try­ing to do for this coun­try at this crit­i­cal mo­ment” and of­fer­ing a mes­sage of unity in­stead.

Cruz has brushed off his op­po­nent’s war chest, say­ing that the “ex­treme left” is en­er­gized by ha­tred for Pres­i­dent Trump and that since there are more Repub­li­cans in Texas than Democrats, all he has to do is turn out his base to win.

Cruz also dis­misses O’Rourke sup­port­ers as car­pet­bag­gers, even though through most of the race the in­cum­bent ac­cepted more money from donors out­side Texas than O’Rourke.

Tom Fox / Dal­las Morn­ing News

In­cum­bent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz (left) leads in the polls over his bet­ter fi­nanced ri­val, Demo­cratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

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