Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why we can't let them run unopposed

I spend a bit of time looking at state campaign finance disclosures, and I conclude that Dems must run candidates against Rs whenever possible. Conceding the seat without a fight is bad enough. It means the Rs will get the seat, obviously.

Something that may not be so obvious is that conceding the seat helps Rs all across the state. How? Legislators who run unopposed tend to donate their basically unneeded campaign cash to other Rs to help them in their contested contests. This helps the challenged R candidates, and it buys influence for the donating candidates.

First off, let's look at Rep Bill Deal's 2006 campaign financing. (I'm using '06 because it was the most recent full cycle.) Deal was in his 8th term in 06. He gave lots of $$ to Republican candidates and causes, even in Sept and Oct, right before the general election. Unopposed, he could afford to give a bunch away, almost $9,000.

Rep Harwood, who was in his 3rd term, was opposed by Richard Taniguchi. Harwood won by 56% to 43%, a fairly easy victory. However, look at his donations. Not much there, only $575.

One more example. Sen. Joe Stegner in 2006 was running for this 4th Term, and was appointed the Assistant Majority Leader. Look at his donations. $2,250, of which only $1,250 went to candidates.

Granted, I cherry picked my examples a bit. Some guys who ran opposed, like Sen. Little, still donated big to other legislators. However, he won by 77% to 23%, so didn't have much of a race on his hands. The best comparison would be to look at a legislator who ran opposed one time, and unopposed another, and see what they donated. I don't think that is really necessary. It seems pretty obvious that legislators who don't have an opponent can use their resources for party building and influence buying. I hope Dems can contest every seat this year. It will help to start breaking the cycle of Republican uber dominance in Idaho.

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