20 July 2010

Candidates Without Money

One of the features of Colorado's caucus system of nominating candidates is that you don't have to have a high income to run for office, even statewide office. This year offers bipartisan proof of that fact.

Both the Democratic top line candidate in the U.S. Senate race primary, Andrew Romanoff, and Dan Maes, the top line candidate in Republican Gubernatorial primary in Colorado, have quite low incomes. Both men made less than $60,000 a year for each of the last few years.

Of course, other candidates have had substantial incomes. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michael Bennet made $6.5 million in 2003, he now, of course, makes less than that as a United States Senator. Republican candidate for Governor Scott McInnis has probably made good money as a lawyer at one of the state's largest law firms, although he hasn't disclosed his income on his tax returns, and his long stint as a Congressman from Colorado probably wasn't much of a boost to his net worth. Ken Buck, the top line candidate in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, has a decent, but hardly extravagant public servant's salary as Weld County's District Attorney. Jane Norton has earned a solid income working for a non-profit, in addition to her husband's healthy income, although she is hardly one of the most affluent people in the state. Democratic candidate for Governor John Hickenlooper has made more than $1 million in a single year and was a successful businessman before entering public service as Denver's mayor.

None of the candidates who won the most support at their respective political party's state conventions in contested races this year raised the most campaign cash. Bennet has received far more campaign contributions than Andrew Romanoff, Jane Norton has raised many times as much campaign cash as Ken Buck, and Scott McInnis has led Dan Maes in fund raising.

Whether a candidate with modest personal assets and modest campaign contributions can win in the primary or the general election is another question.

One of the main arguments for Michael Bennet made by his supporters is that his strong fund raising ability makes him more electable, than Andrew Romanoff who has pledged not to take corporate PAC money. Superior fund raising success has also been part of the mantra of Republicans supporting Jane Norton and Scott McInnis.

The Colorado Pols website is convinced that a campaign cash edge almost insures victory in the absence of a major scandal. My view is far more ambivalent. Certainly, campaign contributions help a campaign. Campaign contributions are often a proxy for grass roots support. And, very low campaign contribution levels can show that you aren't a serious candidate. But, it isn't at all clear to me that campaign contributions are a decisive factor in races where all candidates have raised enough money to be credible candidates.

1 comment:

Dave Barnes said...

Once the primary results are in, it matters not how much money the loser has on hand.

If (BIG IF) Andrew wins the primary, then Mike's COH is null and void as he is no longer in the contest.

Andrew's strategy (or tactic, I am not sure) of spending it all on the primary seems to make sense to me.

If, on August 11th, Andrew is the candidate and Mike is not, it starts all over again. Andrew against Ken.