Texas Republicans lose 3 major donors in 2013

By By CHRIS TOMLINSON

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The deaths this year of three major Texas Republican donors could signal a generational change for party kingmakers in the nation's largest GOP stronghold.

Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who died Saturday, helped transform Texas to a Republican stronghold. Two other major contributors, homebuilder Bob Perry and businessman Leo Linbeck Jr., also died this year.

Republican operatives say it leaves a question mark for Republican candidates and political organizations that have relied on them in the past.

The deaths also come as six of the state's top seven officeholders are moving on.

Experts say the changes are expected to help grass-roots and tea party activists battle for control of the Texas GOP beyond 2014. They also note that oil discoveries are producing a whole new generation of wealthy Republican donor.

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