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Fundraising signals tough fight ahead in Texas governor's race

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[January 15, 2014]  By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters)  The front-runners in the Texas governor's race each raised about $12 million in the second half of 2013, signaling an election fight that will test whether immigration and other changes are shifting the staunchly Republican state to the political center.

Democrat Wendy Davis said Tuesday that she raised $12.2 million from July to December, outpacing Republican front-runner Greg Abbott during the same period. Davis, a state lawmaker who captured the national spotlight last summer with a nearly 11-hour filibuster of a law tightening restrictions on abortion, did not enter the race until October.

Abbott's campaign announced that he raised $11.5 million during the last six months of the year. But the Texas attorney general, who has been in the race longer than Davis, has a total war chest that is vastly larger than his rival's, with $27 million.

"Greg Abbott is humbled and excited by the widespread support from across the state," his campaign manager, Wayne Hamilton, said in a statement.

Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in 20 years  the last to win the governor's office was Ann Richards in 1990. But with a median age in the state of 34, according to the U.S. Census, and an increasing population of residents who are Latino or have moved from other states, many Texas Democrats say their party is poised for a comeback.

Abbott and Davis are considered front-runners in a March 4 primary that will pit the winners against each other in the general election in November.

Davis, who represents Ft. Worth in the Texas Senate, drew thousands of demonstrators to the state capitol and captivated live-stream video viewers nationwide as she stood in pink running shoes and spoke for hours in favor of abortion rights.

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In her first campaign finance report since announcing her candidacy last October, Davis said she received contributions from 71,843 individuals and 85 percent of her contributions were for $50 or less.

Her contributions include funds raised by Texas Victory Committee, a group supported by Battleground Texas, an organization working to register voters and help elect Democratic candidates.

Texas' current governor, former Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry, is not running for re-election.

(Reporting by Marice Richter; writing by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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