Election 2014 - Who Won & How Much Does It Cost to Buy An Election
Two key variables come into play when analyzing the results of an election campaign’s effectiveness; Popularity; Budget. The popularity of the candidate’s persona and message is a key to a compelling platform whereas the budget largely determines how well that message is conveyed to the voting population. In the following election debrief and analysis will try to differentiate the two to provide a better understanding of the future of elections in the county.
Popularity, an election is mostly a popularity contest where a candidate promotes themselves and their campaign platform. The ‘Platform’ being the campaign message and the ‘Planks’ being individual talking points. The popularity of a candidate’ persona, and the campaign’s message can make, or break, a run for elected office.
Independent of the this, is the campaign budget. The Budget is related in terms of the candidate’s popularity relates to campaign donations, it is separated here to illustrate the point. The Budget generally determines the ability to present the campaign’s message to the voters. There is some effect related to effective and efficient use of resources, but getting the attention of the voter is the largest cost of all campaigns. Without sufficient budget, the best message, or candidate, will remain unknown to voters.
For these reasons, we have analyzed the races including the vote counts and percentages, we have also looked at money spent. By doing this we can separate out the budget element from the popularity element.
Only 32.13% of eligible voters in the county voted this election. This is typical statewide. Low turnout elections tend to favor the incumbents.
Eight offices in this election were incumbents and only four of them had any competition. Uncontested races included the Sheriff, the Tax Assessor, the Surveyor, and the Superintendent of Schools.
Two Judgeships were up for election and both were determined in the June election.
Two Supervisor seats were up for election and both will go into a runoff election this November.
Cost per 1%
(I) Vern Pierson
(I) Cherie Raffety
(I) Bill Schultz
(I) Joe Harn
In this chart we see the power of incumbancy but we also see other details including the ultimate cost of each 1% of vote. Those with lower numbers spent less to get voter’s vote. The presumptions is that they had more ‘popular’ messages-candidates reducing the marketing ‘conversion’ cost.
The lowest cost was $0 per 1% to over $1,400 per 1%.
Three races were targeted as long-term incumbents: Bill Schultz; Joe Harn; Cherie Raffety.
District Attorney - Vern Pierson (I) vs. Judson Henry
District Attorney Vern Pierson was being challenged about his politicizing of the DA’s office. Early on, challenger Judson Henry stopped campaigning and endorsed Vern Pierson. Pierson outspent Henry by over 50 to 1 but Henry still received nearly 8,000 votes that can be said are no-confidence votes against Pierson.
Treasurer-Tax Collector - Cherie Raffety (I) vs. Ron Briggs
Cherie Raffety was targeted as a long-time incumbent. Some would say personal animosity played a part in Brigg’s challenge. Brigg’s name is well known and he is a sitting Supervisor. Raffety outspent Briggs by nearly 10 to 1, it cost her nearly three time more per person to get the votes.
Recorder-Clerk - Bill Schultz (I), vs. Chris Amaral
This was a race won by the popular persona of Bill Schultz. Although his age is a concern to many, his past performance has made his job secure. Schultz spent just $31 to get 1% of the vote whereas his challenger had to spend $201 to get the same number of votes.
Auditor-Controller - Joe Harn (I), vs. Mike Owen
This was the only race where the incumbent was threatened by Challenger Mike Owen and had to buy himself out of the hole and keep his office. Incumbent Joe Harn spent like there was no tomorrow. Not only did he tap a big land developer for a major donation, Harn also gave his campaign $35,000 of his own money. Harn was the biggest spender of all local campaigns this election and he outspent Owen by about 4 to 1. But he came close to losing his office as Owen closed the gap to 45% against Harn’s 55%. This weak showing in the face of heavy spending was caused by the high cost of selling Harn. He spent more than any other candidate to get his votes by spending over $1,400 per each percent of the votes.
Judge of the Superior Court Office 5
Cost per 1%
In the vacant Judgeship, Dylan Sullivan walks away from Hoffman in his second run at the Judge’s seat. Sullivan spent three times more than Hoffman but her cost per percent of voters was nearly twice as high as his.
Judge of the Superior Court Office 1
Cost per 1%
In the other vacant Judgeship, Vicki Ashworth walks away from a run-off in November by taking 51% or the vote in the Primary. Although Combellack outspent her, Ashworth stretched her campaign budget by getting more that twice as many votes with the same amount of money. Weinberger broke the bank but with little effect, spending over $4,000 for each 1% percent of votes.
County Supervisor 5th District
Cost per 1%
This open district has a new boundary and a new voting dynamic. Redistricting changed the size of the 5th District to reflect changes in population. Now what was known as the ‘Tahoe’ District has expanded to saddle the mountain crest with part in South Lake Tahoe and the other part in Pollock Pines. In this race there is no clear winner so the top two will go into a runoff election in November. As Tahoe’s Sue Novasel takes the lead and Western Slope’s Kevin Brown also advances into the run-off, it will come down to Brown’s ability to get Tahoe basin votes.
County Supervisor 4th District
Cost per 1%
This race has advanced to a classic environmentalist vs. capitalist struggle as Howard Penn advance to represent the green movement and Mike Ranalli advancing representing a more traditional capitalist perspective. Both Penn and Ranalli have equal popularity among voters and will form into a classic Left/Right political struggle. Most notable is that Scott McNeill takes the prize for the most campaign money spent to the least effect. McNeill spent over $5,000 for every 1% of votes. Perhaps a closer look at Weinberger’s and McNeill’s expenditures to see where the spending was not effective might be illustrative.
The question has been asked, how much does it cost to “Buy” a race?
Well, it depends on who you are! 50% of the vote would cost:
Recorder-Clerk $1,500 - $10,000.
Treasurer-Tax Collector $ 5,000 - $18,000.
Auditor-Controller $ 23,000 - $ 70,000.
County Supervisor 5th District $ 27,000 - $ 51,000.
County Supervisor 4th District $ 77.000 - $ 100,000.