AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Tribune) - As expected, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is maintaining a massive cash advantage ahead of his 2018 re-election race, with a total of more than $5.2 million in the bank.
That war chest total comes after he raised more than $1.7 million among three allied groups during the first quarter of 2017, according to campaign finance reports released over the past several days. His re-election campaign took in $1.3 million of that total, and it has $4.9 million cash on hand.
The Texas Republican already has a Democratic challenger for 2018, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso. O'Rourke raised $208,000 in the first quarter, though he announced his Senate campaign on the last day of the period, March 31, and is said to have raked in hundreds of thousands of more dollars in the following days. His campaign has $535,000 cash on hand - a tenth of Cruz's war chest.
O'Rourke's first quarter reflects his oft-touted pledge not to take money from political action committees and rely on small-dollar donors, who made up 47 percent of his individual contributions. Yet Cruz also has small-dollar fundraising strength - 54 percent of the individual donations came from people giving $200 or less.
The three groups that make up Cruz's fundraising network are Ted Cruz for Senate, a re-election campaign committee; Ted Cruz Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee that sends contributions to the re-election campaign and his leadership PAC; and the Jobs, Freedom, and Security PAC, the leadership PAC.
Among the notable activity on Cruz's first-quarter reports: Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave $20,800 to the joint fundraising committee, suggesting the healing of whatever rift there may have been between the casino mogul and Cruz over his initial refusal last year to endorse Donald Trump for president.
Cruz's re-election campaign report also hints at a kumbaya with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with whom Cruz has not always seen eye to eye. McConnell's leadership PAC gave $10,000 to Cruz's campaign.
And while Cruz might have a competitive race in 2018, his leadership PAC filing for March shows it sent $10,000 to a fellow GOP incumbent who is much higher on Democrats' target list, Nevada's Dean Heller.
On O'Rourke's report, there is at least one notable line: He got a $2,700 donation - the maximum amount under federal law - from Jonathan Soros, son of Democratic mega donor George Soros. Jonathan Soros has been an advocate for campaign finance reform, an O'Rourke priority as well.
O'Rourke may not be the only opponent Cruz faces in 2018. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, has said he will decide by the end of the month whether to take on Cruz, and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, continues to keep the door open to a Cruz challenge. Neither of them, however, turned in first-quarter reports that show fundraising akin to someone getting ready to seriously take on Cruz, with both raising somewhere in the area of $220,000.