State Reps. Jessica Gonzalez, left and Julie Johnson on the floor of the Texas house of Representatives.

Johnson, Terry post impressive numbers ahead of tight races

JAMES RUSSELL | Contributing Writer
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The first crucial campaign finance reports offering a glimpse into the 2020 elections show sizable hauls for two Dallas County candidates running in swing seats.

Freshman Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Farmers Branch, raised $79,000, spent $50,000 and has $109,000 cash on hand. Her major donors include Equality Texas Interim Executive Director Angela Hale and former Annie’s List Director Patsy Woods Martin each gave $5,000.

Republicans held the seat until Johnson defeated former Rep. Matt Rinaldi of Irving in 2018. But Republicans are itching to win back seats ahead of 2021 decennial redistricting, and Rinaldi is rumored to want to return to the Pink Dome. But he said this week that he will not run. He spent $1,000 and has $45,000 cash on hand.

Rinaldi was an outspoken foe of LGBTQ rights during his two terms in the legislature.

For a candidate in a seat anchored by Highland Park, a lot of people think investor and Democrat Shawn Terry can still eke out a win. The seat is currently held by Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Highland Park but Democrats are optimistic after he only defeated Joanna Cattanach by 200 votes in 2018.
Meyer’s record is unfriendly to the LGBTQ community.

Shawn-Terry

The gay investor posted the largest haul of any challenger in the state. The top vote getters in the three way race raised $236,000 and spent $33,000. He has $193,000 cash on hand and no loans. His donors include LGBTQ activist Eric Johnson, who gave $5,100 and Fort Worth political consultant J.D. Angle.

Cattanach raised $65,000, spent $34,000 and has $64,000 cash on hand. Serena Connelly, a human rights advocate and daughter of the late Harold Simmons, gave $6,000. Former Reps. Terri Hodge gave $100 and Harryette Ehrhardt gave $75.

A third candidate, Tom Ervin, raised $42,000, spent $12,000 and has $26,000 cash on hand. Former Equality Texas Board President Steve Rudner gave $2,000.

Meyer has an incumbent’s advantage coupled with party fears they could lose the seat. The chairman of the General Investigating committee raised $156,000, spent $104,000 and has $192,000 cash on hand. Major donors include a who’s who of Dallas Republican social circles, including Harlan Crow, who gave $15,000 and former Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who gave $4,000.

The only other out LGBT representative in a swing seat is Erin Zwiener, a Driftwood Democrat and the body’s first openly bisexual member. She raised $22,000, spent $26,000 and has $25,000 cash on hand. She has no loans. She received mostly small donations in the district, which includes Blanco and Hays counties, but from a crosstitch of donors who warmed to her fights for private property rights. Among her bigger donors are Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who gave $1,000 and Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody of El Paso, who gave $500.

Three Republicans have already lined up against her. Carrie Isaac, wife of former Rep. Jason Isaac, who preceded Zwiener, raised $103,000, spent $4,000 and has $94,000 cash on hand.

Former candidate Austin Talley, who lost the Republican primary to Ken Strange, raised $12,000, spent $21,000 and has $11,000 cash on hand. He has a $20,000 loan

A third candidate, attorney and former Hays County GOP Chairman Kent Wymore, raised $63,000, spent $3,000, and has $61,000 cash on hand.

None have publicly stated opinions on LGBTQ issues.

Seats occupied by Mary Gonzalez of Clint, Celia Israel of Austin and Jessica Gonzalez are as safe as the Pope is Catholic. But Democrats are still campaigning. Dallas’ Gonzalez raised $100, spent $28,000 and has $20,000 cash on hand.

LGBTQ Caucus Chairwoman Gonzalez of Clint raised $1,500, spent $18,000 and has $32,000 cash on hand. Israel raised $885, spent $23,000 and has $65,000 cash on hand.

The filing period for candidates formally opened November 9 and ends December 9.