On June 5, voters in Fort Worth elected Mattie Parker, former chief of staff to Mayor Betsy Price, to replace outgoing Price as the city’s top elected official. In a runoff election that saw over 88,000 voters cast ballots, Parker took 54 percent of the votes to win this expensive and closely-watched contest against Deborah Peoples, former Democratic Party chair for Tarrant County.
The mayoral election was pushed to a runoff when Peoples and Parker led the 10-candidate field in the general election but neither secured more than 50 percent of the vote.
By the time of the runoff election, support in this nonpartisan election appeared to largely coalesce along party lines, and the lopsided money in the race was a frequent topic of conversation throughout the campaign process.
With the election now concluded, here’s just how much campaign money was actually reported by the candidates in this runoff contest, and what the cost-per-vote was for both Parker and Peoples in this tight mayoral race.
For the course of fundraising between January 1 and the runoff’s Election Day, the candidates for Fort Worth mayor filed three campaign finance reports. The 30-day and 8-day before election reports were filed with the city secretary’s office prior to the May 1 election, and a final runoff report was filed by Parker and Peoples’ campaigns in late May.
Here are the contributions and expenditures totals, as reported by the two candidates:
|Candidate||Amount Raised, 30-day and 8-day reports||Amount Raised, runoff report||Total Raised||Amount Spent, 30-day and 8-day reports||Amount Spent, runoff report||Total Spent|
Throughout the campaign, Parker was the more prolific fundraiser of the duo, outraising Peoples both before and after the general election. Despite only $286,180 in contributions compared to the million raised by Parker, Peoples received 33.6 percent of the general election vote. Parker was in second, with 30.8 percent.
Parker raised just over $344,000 more than Peoples during the runoff report, bringing her total funds raised throughout the campaign to over $1.78 million. Meanwhile, Peoples raised over $688,000 for her campaign throughout all of the reports, with more than half of her support surging in during the final weeks of runoff campaigning.
Parker spent over $1.8 million over the entire time period, and Peoples spent just over $605,000.
So how many people turned out to vote for each candidate, and what was the price breakdown of bringing each of those voters to the polls?
The unofficial vote count for the runoff has Mattie Parker with 47,283 votes and Deborah Peoples with 41,012. Each of those votes for Parker, when accounting for all spending over the course of the campaign, cost $38.21. The cost-per-vote for Peoples was much lower, at $14.76.
Spending over the course of the entire election cycle certainly contributed to voter turnout during the runoff, but it is not the whole picture. Some of that money drove turnout in May. More was spent only on the runoff effort and did not factor into the initial election.
In addition to the basic calculation of runoff votes divided by total spending, here are three additional cost-per-vote metrics that are helpful to consider: general election reports cost-per-vote, runoff report cost-per-vote, and total cost-per-vote:
|Candidate||General Election Votes Won||Amount Spent, 30-day and 8-day reports||General Election Report Cost-Per-Vote||Votes Won, June 5 runoff||Amount Spent,runoff report||Runoff ReportCost-Per-Vote||Total Votes Won||Total Spent||Total Cost-Per-Vote|
Both Parker and People’s runoff cost-per-vote was lower than their cost-per-vote in the May 1 election. Voter turnout was much higher for each candidate — and overall — for the runoff. Spending $39.87 per vote in the first round of voting, Parker spent $1.66 per vote less in the runoff, and Peoples spent $1.61 per vote less in the runoff.
Overall, Parker earned 68,223 votes between both elections on a budget of $1,806,723, spending approximately $26.48 per vote. Peoples spent much less. Winning 63,584 votes in between both elections on a $605,515 budget, her campaign spent $9.52 per vote.
Mattie Parker’s much more expensive campaign, at nearly triple the total cost per vote, was ultimately successful. However, Peoples’ numbers make it apparent that big donor numbers were not the driving force behind Fort Worth voter turnout. Her much smaller campaign earned her the top spot in the May election, and only 5000 fewer votes overall.
Now, Fort Worth residents interested in campaign finance can explore who exactly was backing newly-elected Mayor Mattie Parker, and what that might mean for the future of the city. For a full look at campaign finance reports filed by the candidates, please visit this link.