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Analysis: Va. House Winner Spent Less Than $6 per Vote

Updated: 11:25 a.m.

Sometimes you just spend a lot to lose.

A detailed analysis of the most recent campaign finance filings through Oct. 13 showed that Democrats who lost their re-election bids largely spent big bucks to do so. In several cases, Republican candidates who managed to win thanks to a GOP tidal wave sweeping across the nation spent dramatically less.

For example, Morgan Griffith, a lawyer and leader of Virginia’s state House Republicans, spent just $5.95 per vote he won in the southwest Virginia district Rep. Rick Boucher (D) represented for 14 terms. Griffith easily unseated Boucher, who spent $28.41 per vote he won. For his total, Griffith could have purchased for each voter a chicken cordon bleu sandwich from Backstreets in Blacksburg, Va.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D) vastly outspent his rival Daniel Webster, falling to the Republican by more than 22 points in Florida’s 8th district. Grayson spent $45.76 per voter he won while Webster spent $7.91.

Two-term Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) spent $29.56 per voter he won to try to keep his seat in Pennsylvania’s 8th district. But Republican Mike Fitzpatrick, who spent just $8.69, won back the seat he’d held before Murphy beat him in 2006.

In one of the most expensive races, Rep. Ron Klein (D) spent $52.31 per vote he won in South Florida, losing to Allen West, who spent $40.05. All told, the two candidates spent $92.36 per voter last week.

Another expensive race was Texas’ 17th district, where Republican Bill Flores successfully unseated 10-term Rep. Chet Edwards (D). Edwards spent $40.27 per voter he won over; Flores spent $24.39. In total the candidates spent $64.66 per voter in the district, home to Texas A&M University.

West is among the Top 25 most spendy candidates. Car dealer Scott Rigell in Virginia’s 2nd district spent $31.34 per vote he won to unseat Rep. Glenn Nye (D), who spent $22.52 per voter. For that amount, Rigell could have purchased each voter one new rim for a Mitsubishi Galant. Rigell’s total fundraising included $950,000, which came from his own funds and a personal loan, records show.

Also spending big and losing was Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, one of just a handful of Republicans the Democratic Party was able to unseat last week. Cao spent $35.71 per voter he won, while Rep.-elect Cedric Richmond (D) spent only $9.23.

A few others caught our eye given the wide disparity between each candidate’s funds spent per vote they won.

  • Rep. Michael McMahon spent $38.11 per voter he won in New York’s 13th district, and his Republican rival, Michael Grimm, spent $15.17.
  • Rep. Bill Foster spent $32.14 per voter he won in Illinois’ 14th district, while GOP winner Randy Hultgren spent $10.57.

  • Rep. Harry Mitchell spent $31.25 per voter he won in Arizona’s 5th district, losing to Republican David Schweikert, who spent $13.32.
  • Rep. Zack Space in Ohio’s 18th district spent $26.10 per voter he won, losing to Bob Gibbs, who spent $8.20.
  • Rep. Suzanne Kosmas spent $22.43 per voter she won in Florida’s 24th district. The GOP winner, Sandy Adams, spent just $4.68.
  • Rep. Earl Pomeroy spent $27.53 per voter he won in North Dakota, and his Republican rival, Rick Berg, who won by 10 points, spent $9.68.
  • Rep. Betsy Markey spent $32.39 per vote she won in Colorado’s 4th district, and her Republican rival Cory Gardner spent $14.80.

Of course, independent expenditures and third-party groups’ spending played a major role this year. Those totaled huge sums for both parties. Democratic operatives pointed out that the numbers prove their point that outside groups such as Americans for Job Security has enormous influence on the outcomes of these races.

For example, while Griffith personally spent very little per voter, outside groups spent a total of $800,310. That calculates to $8.38 per vote Griffith won to unseat Boucher.

Data and research by Alex Knott.

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