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A lot of green chasing gold

By MARY CLARKIN The Hutchinson News

The primary colors in the recent 1st Congressional District election were green and gold: Green, the color of money, chasing the gold — votes.

Combined, six Republican campaigns spent about $2.53 million through July 14, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Unofficial vote totals show 98,210 votes counted in the 1st District’s Republican primary. That translates into $25.77 a vote.

The most cost-efficient campaign belonged to Sue Boldra, an educator at Fort Hays State University, who spent $37,647 through mid-July, and received 7,715 votes.

Boldra, however, took fourth place on election night. State Sen. Tim Huelskamp, of Fowler, won, with a campaign spending/vote total ratio translating into $17.34 a vote compared to Boldra’s $4.88 a vote.

Barnett’s cash bag

U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is running for the U.S. Senate, creating an open seat in the 1st District for the first time since 1996. Two other House districts in Kansas also have rare open-seat races.

An analysis of open-seat contests for U.S. House districts in 2008 across the country found winners, on average, spent $1,897,078 in the primary and general election campaigns combined, according to data provided by The Campaign Finance Institute in Washington. The losers spent an average of $1,230,786.

As of mid-July, no Republican in the 1st District had spent $1 million, but the race’s top-spender, state Sen. Jim Barnett, of Emporia, had disbursed $726,346 and had $234,845 in cash available. If he had won Tuesday, he would have faced the general election campaign against Democrat Alan Jilka, of Salina.

Congressional campaign spending has climbed steadily, the data show.

An open seat in the House “tends to attract people who have been waiting around for that opportunity,” said Brendan Glavin, with the Campaign Finance Institute, and the stakes are even greater in open-seat races for the U.S. Senate, he noted.

Moran and U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., had spent a combined $6.7 million by mid-July in their heated primary race for the Senate. Moran won Tuesday, with a spending/vote ratio of about $28 a vote over Tiahrt’s $15 a vote ratio.

Wasinger-Boldra split

In his campaign platform in the 1st District race, Rob Wasinger, of Cottonwood Falls, pledged “to work aggressively to address out-of-control Congressional spending and restore financial responsibility” in Washington.

Wasinger filed candidacy papers in October 2008 and hit the campaign trail. His expenses appeared similar to those incurred by some of his rivals. He flew to the East Coast to raise money. Within the district, he traveled by vehicle to all 69 counties. He rented campaign office space in Cottonwood Falls and Hays. His latest quarterly finance report listed six paid staff, with intern stipends going to four other people.

As of mid-July, Wasinger had dispersed $667,935, second only to Barnett in spending. On Tuesday, Wasinger came in fifth out of six, failing to carry any county. Barnett carried Chase County, where Wasinger lives. Only Wasinger and last-place finisher Marck Cobb, of Galva, did not capture a single county. Huelskamp won Cobb’s home ground of McPherson County.

Wasinger’s spending/vote ratio equaled $72.97 a vote, for the highest cost per vote in the race. Attempts to reach Wasinger were unsuccessful Thursday.

A sharper contrast than the Boldra-Wasinger split arose in the Republican primary in the 4th Congressional District in south-central Kansas. Wink Hartman spent $92 a vote and finished third in the effort to replace Tiahrt. State Sen. Jean Schodorf came in second, spending $3.72 a vote, based on spending through July 14. Mike Pompeo won the nomination, spending about $21 a vote.

So, was it worth it?

Mann focused Thursday on wrapping up his campaign, and said he had not had time to analyze the campaign and that included reviewing his decisions on how resources were allocated.

Huelskamp hit television first, and the Barnett, Mann and Wasinger campaigns also ran commercials. They also sent multiple mailings and erected signs.

Boldra managed to run a TV commercial, but news stories about opinion polls that put her near the bottom hurt fundraising.

Every time a poll came out, she said, fundraising became more difficult.

“I sent out one mailing, and it was like $4,000, and I thought, ‘Well, I can’t do this,’ ” she said.

By the end of July, a 30-second spot on a Wichita television station cost $850, she said. Boldra had a commercial appearing on cable television in Hays and on KSN television. The other campaigns paid outside agencies for mailings and production of commercials, but Boldra handled the mailing, and two former students volunteered to help make the commercial.

“It really was a very family-oriented, friend-oriented citizen campaign,” Boldra said.

“It was a good experiment. I had a little trouble yesterday, coming to terms with spending a year doing this. Was it worth it?,” she asked herself as she picked up campaign yard signs.

“I’m not sure I would recommend it for everyone, but in retrospect, it was good,” she said.

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