Surprise! Candidates set spending records in 2018 races
It took just north of $2 million to win the average House race last year and $15.7 million to win a Senate seat – but that's nothing compared to the subset of eight victorious new senators, who spent an average of $23.8 million.
Those numbers, which predictably shattered previous records, headline new calculations by the Center for Responsive Politics for the first in a four-part series analyzing money-in-politics trends from the 2018 midterm.
The three biggest spenders all challenged incumbents. Only one of them won: Republican Rick Scott, who spent an all-time record $83.5 million (most of it the record-setting $63.5 million he gave himself) to edge incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson ($33 million spent) in Florida. Outside groups brought total spending on the contest above $209 million, CRP found, "blowing away the previous record-holder."
The second biggest spenders were Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who spent $79 million of other people's money in Texas, and Republican Bob Hugin, who spent $39 million of mostly his own money in New Jersey.
Among House freshmen, the typical Democrat spent more than $4.4 million but the average Republicans' outlay was just $1.6 million – the discrepancy being the result of so many of the new Democrats challenging GOP incumbents in tossup contests while the relatively few GOP newcomers mainly cruised into safe seats.
Neal is federal government affairs manager at R Street Institute, a nonpartisan and pro-free-market public policy research organization.
The term "democratic norms" has become a misnomer over the last year. America's governing institutions are undermined by elected officials who dishonor their offices and each other. Standards of behavior and "normal" processes of governance seem to be relics of a simpler time. Our democracy has survived thus far, but the wounds are many.
Free speech and free press have been the White House's two consistent whipping posts. Comments such as "I think it is embarrassing for the country to allow protestors" and constant attacks on press credibility showcase President Trump's disdain for the pillars of democracy. Traditional interactions between the administration and the press are no longer taken for granted. Demeaning, toxic criticisms have become so common that they're being ignored. As the administration revokes critics' press passes and daily briefings are canceled, normalcy in this arena is sorely missed.
Having had remarkable success at signing people up to vote in Texas last year, an Austin group of activists is expanding its pilot program into a full-blown national effort to overcome the sometimes ignored first hurdle for people in the voting process — registration.
"There are millions of voters who are registered who don't get out to vote," said Christopher Jasinski, director of partnerships for Register2Vote. "But the unmeasured part of the pie is the actual number of unregistered voters."