Alexa Wesner caught Obamania before it became fashionable.
The West Lake Hills woman, who’s known Barack Obama since he ran for the U.S. Senate four years ago, has slogged through the snows of Iowa, exceeded her goal of raising $250,000 for his presidential campaign (she’s got a similar target for the fall election), hosted a couple of local Obama fundraisers and dined with the candidate’s wife last fall on a trip to London.
Now Wesner, 36, has turned her sights on what Texas Democrats hope will become the next big thing: winning back the Texas House of Representatives.
[Saturday] Wesner is hosting a high-dollar fundraiser in Wimberley for her new political action committee, Blue Texas, dedicated to spending money on state legislative campaigns. (Tickets are $5,000 a couple to $50,000 for a host committee for an event headlined by Jerry Jeff Walker and Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison.)
As of Friday, Wesner said, she had raised $1 million in tickets for the event. To put that in perspective, Texas Republicans, with Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. John Cornyn headlining an event in Weatherford this weekend, expect to raise $600,000 for statewide get-out-the-vote efforts this fall, according to Roger Williams, who leads the GOP’s Texas Victory ’08 effort.
Texas Democrats spent $21.5 million, from all sources, on Texas House races in 2006, when Republicans outspent them with $38 million.
State Rep. Jim Dunnam, a Waco Democrat who heads the House Democratic Campaign Committee, says he has no illusions that Democrats will outspend Republicans in Texas this year. But he welcomes Wesner’s help: “We never had a million-dollar event before.”
Wow. That’s mighty impressive. And if you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of Ms. Wesner before, consider this:
Ask Wesner why she’s set her sights on the Texas House as well as the White House, and her answer shows how new to politics she is.
“It was amazing to me how close we are. We just need five seats,” Wesner said of the Democrats’ chances of winning a legislative majority in the Texas House, where Republicans hold a 79-71 majority. “I’m talking to a lot of people who don’t realize how close it is.”
Wesner’s enthusiasm and a younger network of high-dollar donors has the Texas Democratic establishment excited.
“She’s so refreshing,” said Jack Martin, founder of Public Strategies, an international business consulting firm. “Not only does she not know who’s been mad at one another (in the Democratic Party), she doesn’t care.”
Martin said Wesner called him last fall to attend an Obama fundraiser.
“She didn’t know big shots like me are supposed to be wooed to attend,” Martin quipped. At the event, Wesner was “taking Obama around the crowd like he’s running for the school board,” Martin said.
Martin, a political wunderkind when he worked for U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen a quarter-century ago, said he didn’t recognize anyone at the fundraiser except biker and cancer-fighter Lance Armstrong.
“Everyone was 20 years younger,” said Martin, who is 54.
That’s a lot of new blood getting involved in a meaningful way for Democratic politics in Texas. I keep saying this year is like no other election year. I’d count this as one more reason why.
The Blue Texas website is here – you have to sign up to see most of the content. Turns out one of the founders was my freshman week orientation mentor in college – he sent me that Statesman story, as well as a copy of Alexa Wesner’s remarks at the Saturday event. I look forward to hearing more from these folks in the near future.