The Value of a Vote

Valentine's Day has come and gone, but don't tell that to two lovers who remain in a tight embrace 365 days a year: money and politics. ...
by | February 20, 2007

Valentine's Day has come and gone, but don't tell that to two lovers who remain in a tight embrace 365 days a year: money and politics.

To see how this relationship played out in last year's governors' races, I calculated the amount candidates spent per vote received. I didn't look at every state and in some cases I could only find information on money raised (rather than spent), but, thanks to helpful news clips and this handy chart, I was able to cover 15 key states.

* Unsurprisingly, Michigan's free-spending Republican nominee, Dick DeVos, spent the most at almost $26 per vote. But if I'd been looking at primaries too, California's Steve Westly would have far surpassed him at $40.6 per vote. Both lost.

* Maryland was the most expensive state, with Republican Bob Ehrlich ($21.7 per vote) and Democrat Martin O'Malley ($15.9) both spending freely. Other top spenders included Nevada's Jim Gibbons ($20.4) and Massachusetts' Kerry Healey ($16.0).

* In contrast, Minnesota was the land of frugal candidates. Even though Governor Tim Pawlenty decided to decline public funding so he could break the state spending cap, he did so rather sheepishly, spending only $3.9 million or $3.8 per vote. His Democratic opponent, Mike Hatch, went even lower at $2.7 per vote.

* Of course in Minnesota, as elsewhere, these numbers don't reflect the spending of political parties or outside groups. As one example, Florida's Charlie Crist raised $20 million, but the state G.O.P. raised twice that much just from September to November. In California, $330 million was spent campaigning on ballot measures. In others words, Californians could have skipped the ballot measures and bought themselves 10,000 70-inch HDTVs instead. Who would have objected?

* A quartet of Democrats were the only candidates I could find who won despite raising or spending less than their opponents: O'Malley, Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and Governors Granholm and Kulongoski of Michigan and Oregon, respectively. However, it was common for losing candidates to have spent less per vote, sometimes dramatically less.

* One cautionary note: these figures might not, in ever case, include money that candidates raised or spent after the election was over. For example, O'Malley raised $1.7 in the two months after his win. Either these donors fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the space-time continuum or they're more interested in influencing a new governor than influencing an election.

State Candidate $ per vote AR Beebe 15.6 AR Hutchinson 11.3 CA Schwarzenegger 9.5 CA Angelides 11.5 GA Perdue 11.3 GA Taylor 12.7 IL Topinka 6.8 IL Blagojevich 15.1 MA Patrick* 6.1 MA Healey* 16.0 MD Ehrlich* 21.7 MD O'Malley* 15.8 MI DeVos 25.9 MI Granholm 6.8 MN Hatch 2.7 MN Pawlenty 3.8 NV Gibbons 20.4 NV Titus 14.1 NY Spitzer* 13.4 NY Faso* 3.1 OH Strickland* 6.7 OH Blackwell* 8.2 OR Kulongoski 8.0 OR Saxton 15.4 PA Rendell* 13.2 PA Swann* 6.8 RI Carcieri 10.5 RI Fogarty 10.4 TX Perry 13.4 TX Bell 5.0 TX Strayhorn 15.8 TX Friedman 6.9 WI Doyle 9.3 WI Green 7.8

* Figures refer to money raised, rather than money spent.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman | Former Staff Writer |