By Julie Bykowicz
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has picked up the backing of a Texas billionaire and the state’s lieutenant governor, his campaign said Monday.
Darwin Deason, a technology entrepreneur, and his son, Doug, had given millions of dollars to the 2016 efforts of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ended his bid for the White House last month.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — a one-time foe of the Texas senator — also will now serve as the Texas chairman of Cruz’s presidential campaign.
Cruz is one of several Republican presidential candidates with Texas ties, but he has dominated the state’s generous donor class. In the first nine months of the year, Cruz raised more than three times as much in the state as did Jeb Bush, according to an Associated Press analysis of donations.
Bush, a former Florida governor, spent much of his youth in Texas, and his father and brother, both former presidents, still call the state home.
Cruz called his own fundraising “astonishing” and said it’s “positively nuts” that he’s in some ways in a stronger financial position than Bush.
“There are some other campaigns that have a lot of high-dollar donors and bundlers, but not much grassroots support,” he said, speaking just a few miles away from where the Bush family was rallying around Jeb Bush at an event for his donors.
Patrick’s backing of Cruz gives him a powerful surrogate in a delegate-rich state where Republican primary voters go to the polls March 1. And adding the Deasons to his financial team could significantly boost Cruz’s presidential campaign accounts.
Earlier this year, Darwin Deason poured $5 million into pro-Perry super PACs — making him one of the biggest contributors in presidential politics. After Perry’s withdrawal from the race, the super PACs returned much of that money.
Cruz also has super PACs working on his behalf. Those groups can take unlimited amounts from donors, while the campaigns themselves cannot accept contribution checks from each donor of more than $2,700 per election.
When super PACs are factored into the mix, Cruz’s fundraising is second only to Bush’s in the GOP field. Together, the pro-Cruz groups had raised at least $64 million by the end of September, fundraising documents show.
Bush and Cruz have both shown they can land big contribution checks. But Cruz holds a sharp fundraising advantage over Bush when it comes to small donors.
While only about 4 percent of Bush’s campaign haul has come from contributors giving $200 or less, 41 percent of Cruz’s campaign money is coming from such small donors, fundraising records show.
Those kinds of givers are especially valuable because they can provide a constant stream of cash without taking up the candidate’s time attending traditional fundraising events.
The Deasons are marquee names for Cruz, but he has quietly consolidated the support of many former donors to Perry and another 2016 dropout, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The Cruz campaign added five other former Perry backers to its finance team, officials said on Monday.
Cruz gained a larger share of those candidates’ donors than anyone else in the race, according to an analysis by crowdpac.com, a nonpartisan political analytics company.