Governors Races Break The Bank
By Kathleen Murphy, Staff Writer
Candidates for governor in New York could have bought every voter two Big Macs with fries and Cokes for about half the amount they spent on the race.
Total spending in New York's gubernatorial race hit $117.4 million in mid-October--- about $10 per registered voter. Final spending tallies could reach the national record for a non-presidential race, and could approach the record in California and Texas.
The spending record for a nonpresidential race was set in California's 1998 governor's race - $130.5 million, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics.
This year's gubernatorial races defied conventional wisdom that election years in which the White House is not at stake are less expensive. Spending tallies won't be final until January, but the 2002 races clearly shattered records for the most spent, and for candidate self-financing.
- In New York, billionaire Independence Party candidate Tom Golisano spent $54.2 million, much of it his own, by mid-October. Golisano's spending on his losing campaign was nearly half of the race's total.
- In Texas, Democrat Tony Sanchez spent close to $70 million, mostly from his own fortune, in his unsuccessful campaign to defeat Gov. Rick Perry (R), the former lieutenant governor who took over the state when George W. Bush was elected president. Total spending in that race is expected to approach $100 million.
- In California, Gov. Gray Davis spent at least $65 million on his re-election, and total spending in the race was likely to top at least $100 million.
- Wisconsin candidates for governor spent at least $16.7 million, more than twice the spending in the last election for the top post in that state.
Many of this year's governor's races were in states with expensive media markets, and a big percentage of campaign cash went to TV advertising. Maryland gubernatorial candidates, for example, spent a record $6 million on TV ads as of mid-October.
If previous elections are any indication, labor groups such as the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and the National Education Association were among the largest donors to state races. Other traditional high rollers in statewide contests include corporate giant Philip Morris, telecommunications companies such as Verizon, and pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Data on specific top contributors in governors' races is still incomplete, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics.
"In general, contributors affiliated with the financial, insurance and real-estate industries traditionally are big givers as a group, and that appears to be holding true this election," said Sue O'Connell, institute spokeswoman.