Super Tuesday’s biggest loser? The narrative that money can buy an election.
From the top of the ballot to the bottom, voters proved again and again they won’t be swayed by money alone. Here are some glaring examples:
The most infamous case is Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, who spent north of $500 million yet couldn’t win a single state.
A Congressional primary race for U.S. House District 22 also showed that neither wealth nor name recognition alone can win votes. In this case the candidate with the least money, Sheriff Troy Nehls came in first with 40.5 percent of the vote. He’ll be joined in the May runoff by wealthy political activist Kathaleen Wall. Wall outraised Nehls 10-to-1 and outspent him 17-to-1, but only managed to get half as many votes. Pierce Bush, grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, raised more than a million dollars and spent $571,389, but failed to even make the runoff.
Perhaps the most surprising example from Super Tuesday is the out-of-nowhere upset of incumbent Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton by newcomer Jim Wright. By every financial metric, Sitton should have mopped the floor with Wright. Sitton collected $1,090,176 compared to Wright’s $16,909. Sitton spent $800,555, while Wright only spent $12,522. Yes, you read that right — Sitton spent 64 times the amount spent by Wright. And Sitton had more than $2.2 million in the bank, while Wright had only $12,637. Despite Sitton’s financial advantages, Wright ran a savvy campaign and beat Sitton by 12 percentage points.
Several high profile legislative races provide even more proof. In the Democratic primary for Texas Senate District 19, Xochil Pena Rodriguez came out ahead of former Texas House Rep. Roland Gutierrez by 4,725 votes, despite the fact that Gutierrez outraised Rodriguez by nearly 4-to-1 ($385,025 and $98,327 respectively) and outspent him by almost 2-to-1. These candidates will meet again in the May runoff.
Texas House District 59 continues the narrative that money alone can’t buy elected office. In this race, liberal Republican Rep. J.D. Sheffield faced two challengers from his right flank and has been forced into a runoff election to try to keep his seat. Shelby Slawson took first, despite spending the least of any candidate at $156,613. Incumbent Sheffield managed to hold second place and will advance to a runoff against Slawson. Despite spending $921,197 — by far the most money in this race — Cody Johnson came up short with a third place finish at the polls.
It takes money to win an election, but it’s not the deciding factor. There are plenty of other ingredients that make a victor, from a winsome politician to a smartly-run campaign. Most of all, it takes a candidate who can convince voters that he or she will represent their concerns in Austin or D.C.
Super Tuesday’s biggest winner? The voters, who can rest assured that their voices, not money, matter most on election day.
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