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Conroe Courier: Impact of Senate campaign funds debated

January 30, 2014

Conroe Courier: Impact of Senate campaign funds debated

Conroe Courier: January 29, 2014

With more than $1 million in his campaign war chest, Brandon Creighton may have deposited himself as the front-runner for the May 10 special election to replace Tommy Williams in the Texas Senate.

However, his opponents aren’t worried – with one pointing out he already prevailed in an election after being overwhelmingly outspent by the incumbent; and the other stating that a majority of longtime state Rep. Creighton’s financial support came before he announced his candidacy for the Senate seat.

Creighton, R-Conroe, who has served as the District 16 state representative for four terms, along with District 15 state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, and The Woodlands Township board member Gordy Bunch are locked in a three-way race for the Senate District 4 seat vacated last year by Williams.

Filing their first round of mandatory financial reports Jan. 15, Creighton submitted a report in which he far outpaced his opponents. According to data provided by the Texas Ethics Commission, Creighton’s campaign war chest of $1.02 million far exceeds the $398,079 combined of Toth and Bunch.

“I’m thankful the people of Senate District 4 have come out to support me and are willing to invest their hard-earned money,” he said. “The voters originally sent me to Austin to fight for our shared values in an arena that is often difficult to deliver major accomplishments.”

For the filing period of July 1 to Dec. 31, 2013, Creighton took in more than $296,000 in contributions, plus a $50,000 loan, while spending more than $205,000, meaning he had more than $860,000 in political money before he announced his candidacy for agriculture commissioner and then switched to the Senate race in mid-October.

“I will continue to work each day till to the May 10th election to reach voters and promote my vision for the people of Senate District 4,” Creighton said.

Toth, a first-term legislator when the 83rd session went into action this year, was outspent by a 13-1 margin – $659,000 to $57,000 – against incumbent Rob Eissler. But with support from the Texas Patriots PAC, Toth pulled off an upset in 2012 and now attempts to make the move from one side of the Texas Capitol to the other.

“We’re not really concerned about how much money we’ve raised,” Toth said.

For the same filing period as Creighton, Toth brought in nearly $108,000 in contributions, while spending more than $48,000. He had more than $123,000 remaining in his political contributions account as of the Jan. 15 filing date.

Bunch, who filed late last year to run for the seat, reported $29,688 in total political contributions from the reporting period of Nov. 18 to Dec. 31, 2013. Bunch spent $8,167 on his campaign during that time and also took out a $250,000 personal loan, leaving him with $274,964 in campaign funding available as of the Jan. 15 filing.

Even with the number of contributions he’s received, Creighton took out a loan of $50,000 from Larry Johnson, CEO of Johnson Development. On Dec. 31, Toth took out a $50,000 loan against himself as well, but it is not listed as an outstanding loan on his financial report.

Bunch pointed out that a large percentage of Creighton’s campaign funds were there prior to Creighton’s announcement for the Senate seat.

A spokeswoman with Creighton’s campaign said everyone who contributed to Creighton during his state agriculture campaign has been offered a return on their contributions.

Bunch predicted he will be around for the finish.

“I expect to have more voters by the end of this election than the number I start with,” he said.

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