Money no guarantee of election victory

November 23, 2012 

Voters in this state’s legislative races were just bombarded with the most expensive political campaign in state history.

The mailers, phone calls, radio spots and television ads carried a combined price tag of slightly more than $31 million. That includes more than $25 million raised by the candidates and close to $6 million independent groups spent on their behalf.

Campaign expenditures have nearly doubled in the past 10 years. But spending more is no guarantee of a victory.

Take the case of Tacoma trial lawyer Jack Connelly. He amassed the largest war chest of anyone in his bid to unseat fellow Democrat and longtime incumbent Jeannie Darneille in the 27th District state Senate race.

But the $1,068,516 he spent, including nearly $1 million of his own money, was for naught. Connelly garnered 42.7 percent of the vote, or roughly 23,000 votes. Do the math: Connelly spent about $46.38 per vote and still fell far short of victory.

It’s a reassuring outcome for those who fear the influence of money spent by candidates, PACS and Super PACS in the 2012 election cycle.

While campaigns saturated with money may make a difference among independent and undecided voters, it may not mean as much for a challenger trying to unseat an incumbent, or a challenger from one party in a district controlled by the other party.

Sometimes taking a stance on an issue that runs counter to the liberal or conservative leanings of a legislative district outweighs the cash spent. In Connelly’s case, he opposes abortion rights while Darneille supports them. It’s a liberal-leaning legislative district, so Connelly was on the wrong side of that issue.

Washington voters are known to be an independent, discerning bunch. Maybe the Evergreen State is one of those places where it’s harder to buy an election.

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