His adversaries like to call Clayton Williams "Blatant Millions" and campaign reports filed this week in Austin revealed that the Republican nominee for governor of Texas is filling and emptying his money bags at a record rate.

Over the past three months, Williams spent $4.7 million in his bid to occupy the Lone Star governor's mansion, part of $15.5 million he has paid out the past year. His opponent, Democrat Ann Richards, spent half as much -- $2.2 million the past three months and $7.6 altogether.

His massive financial advantage, which he has used to sponsor an incessant media campaign, is one reason Williams has led Richards from the start of the race. Williams, who spent $5.5 million of his money to capture the GOP primary, is now having an easier time getting other people's money. The traditional "gravy train" has begun, with political action committees and entrepreneurs contributing to what they perceive as the winning campaign. A Williams spokesman said the campaign expects to hold four to six fund-raisers each week by Nov. 6.

But there are indications that since Richards hit a low point three weeks ago, with polls showing her 15 points behind, she has begun a comeback and could yet make a close race of it.

Williams's refusal to debate Richards has added to the impression that he is being controlled by political "handlers." Richards has been drawing large and enthusiastic crowds the past week, combining her longtime crusade for women's rights with a new-found populist theme in which she attacks lax regulation of the insurance industry.