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Holding Texas’ 14th District Might Be Challenge for GOP

Texas Republicans are ringing the alarm over a House race that had seemed  a safe bet to remain Republican.

The reason for worry is the third-quarter fundraising and spending totals that recently came to light in the race for Texas’ 14th district. Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) both outraised and has far more in cash on hand than the favorite to win the seat, state Rep. Randy Weber (R).

“I’d say there is a panic button that somebody, somewhere is hitting,” a Texas GOP consultant said.

Lampson outraised Weber by about $50,000 in the third quarter, but the greater concern is that the Democrat had about $422,000 in cash on hand, while Weber only had $55,000.

This is an open seat race to replace retiring Rep. Ron Paul (R). It is without doubt Republican territory. Redistricting put much of Lampson’s old Democratic stronghold, Beaumont, into the southeastern Texas district. The intent of Republican mapmakers was to overwhelm those Democrats with the Republican areas of the Houston suburbs.

Even before Lampson opted to get into the race, Democrats conceded that while it was a Republican seat, he was the one candidate who could push it into their column. The argument was that Lampson, a native and favorite son of Beaumont, makes this seat competitive.

The Lampson campaign and national Democrats have stepped up their arguments in recent weeks that the race is competitive.

Texas Republicans scoffed at the notion. They even wrote off Lampson’s history as a strong fundraiser. The thinking was that even huge financial hauls had not saved him in past tough races.

Even local Democrats were bearish on Lampson as late as last week, saying that his homebase areas have been trending Republican. One longtime Democratic Beaumont voter went as far as to say that Lampson didn’t stand “a snowball chance.”

But on Tuesday, Republicans admitted they were concerned. The raw numbers available do not bode well. According to a Democratic source tracking media buys in the Houston and Beaumont markets, this is a hand-to-hand combat race between the campaigns.

As of Wednesday, House Majority PAC, a super PAC that supports Democratic House candidates, had put $70,000 into this race. Combined with Lampson’s TV investments, Democrats have spent about $264,000. Weber has been on his own and has spent $293,000.

But looking forward, no campaigns or outside groups are on the air after Oct. 22. This potentially means that Lampson can unload six-figure sums and Weber does not have a healthy cash-on-hand total to retaliate on the air.

What is not clear is what has been happening since the reports were filed on Sept. 30. Lampson’s burn rate since then is not apparent, and a spokeswoman for the Weber campaign said that their fundraising has “picked up in the last couple of weeks.”

“Everyday we’re getting money in,” Weber campaign spokeswoman Courtney Weaver said. “I’m confident and the campaign is confident that we’ll have the resources to win.”

“People are seeing the urgency,” she added.

The fear is not so much that Weber will flat lose the race, but that national Republican groups will have to spend money here to keep Weber in the game.

“I think it’s a problem for the [National Republican Congressional Committee] because it means they’ll have to spend money here and divert resources from races that are more competitive,” another Texas GOP strategist said.

Without a wave to give candidates such as Weber cover, Republicans are competing in safe Democratic seats and Democrats are competing  in places such as Texas’ 14th. Lampson is the latest proof of the neutral environment political mantra: Candidates matter.

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