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Late spending flurries fail to help Dems win in 2010

Final campaign spending reports from the 2010 election season revealed desperation by ultimately unsuccessful candidates who loaned their campaigns large amounts of money, as well as aggressive spending by winning candidates who likely didn’t need it.

The deadline for filing the post-general election reports, which show fundraising figures for Oct. 14 through Nov. 22, was Dec. 2.

Democratic Senate candidates had little to show for a spending blitz in which they greatly outspent their Republican opponents during the final stretch of the campaigns.

Democrat Justin Johnson, who tried to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Linda Gray in Legislative District 10, was an especially active fundraiser, collecting the third largest amount of money during his entire campaign — $137,000 — among legislative candidates in this election cycle.

In fact, Johnson raised nearly $19,000 and spent about $50,000 between Oct. 14 and Nov. 22 alone. Gray, in contrast, ran as a Clean Elections candidate, which limited her spending to roughly $21,000 during the general election. Gray beat Johnson by more than 4,000 votes.

Cheryl Cage, a Democrat from Marana, faced a similar situation to Johnson in her bid to win the Legislative District 26 Senate seat from Republican incumbent Al Melvin.

Cage raised about $125,000 for the entire campaign, nearly doubling Melvin’s overall fundraising total of $63,000. Cage lost to Melvin, who captured 6,000 more votes than the Democrat. When the two squared off two years ago, about 2,000 votes separated them.

In one of the biggest surprises of the election, tens of thousands of dollars in independent spending failed to lift Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios over Republican newcomer Steve Smith.

Both candidates ran with equal amounts of public money. But independent expenditure groups came up big for Rios, spending about $90,000 for her re-election campaign. It was the most independent spending for any legislative candidate this election cycle. Rios came up about 4,000 votes short.

Jon Hulburd, the Democratic candidate in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, faced the same situation and result as his legislative brethren.

Hulburd loaned himself $500,000 in the last month of the campaign, but lost by 23,000 votes to Republican Ben Quayle.

One congressional Democratic candidate did manage to turn a late spending blitz into a victory at the polls.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords disposed of Republican challenger Jesse Kelly by a little more than 4,000 votes. She spent more than $1 million during the final five weeks of the campaign, whereas Kelley spent $447,000.

Giffords was able to bombard voters in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District with her message during the entire campaign. She raised about $3.5 million, while Kelly reported raising nearly $1.7 million.

Even the record-setting amount of money spent in the state treasurer’s race by both candidates wasn’t enough to make it close. The race saw each candidate spend around $1 million. Andrei Cherny spent more than half — $533,000 — of his $983,000 campaign war chest from Oct. 14 through the end of the campaign, primarily on television advertising. He loaned himself $280,000 in late October.

Doug Ducey, the former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, loaned his campaign about $317,000 near the end of the campaign. During that same period, he spent about $427,000.

Ducey reported spending about $1.2 million and Cherny spent $983,000 for their entire campaigns, both record amounts for the treasurer’s race. In the end, Ducey topped Cherny by about 165,000 votes.

Perhaps the Democrats’ best chance for a statewide victory was attorney general candidate Felecia Rotellini. The state Democratic Party gave Rotellini, former superintendent of the Department of Financial Institutions, $30,000 on Oct. 22. In the end, it didn’t make enough of a difference, although Rotellini came the closest to winning out of all the statewide Democratic candidates.

While millions were spent in congressional and statewide races, Arizona House Republicans, who had relatively easy sailing, still raised and spent money as though their races were closer than they actually were.

House Speaker Kirk Adams outraised and outspent all other candidates for the Legislature this year. He raised $196,531 and spent roughly the same amount in his re-election campaign, for a race where his victory was more or less assured.

Adams and Republican freshman Justin Olson beat their lone Democratic challenger in Legislative District 19, Kit Filbey, by approximately 20,000 votes each.

Legislative District 19 is a conservative enclave, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 2-to-1.

Even just the possibility of being in leadership helps pull in contributions for a candidate.

Rep. John McComish ran unopposed for the Legislative District 20 Senate seat, but he still collected a whopping $54,634.

Rep. Steve Yarbrough, who also didn’t have an opponent, raised $27,854 for his election to the Legislative District 21 Senate seat.

The two senators-elect had eyed the Senate presidency, which ultimately went to Sen. Russell Pearce, a Republican from Mesa.

While prominent legislative Republicans had little problem raising enough money to secure their re-elections, the state Republican Party’s overall fundraising results for the past two-year election cycle (2009-2010) were largely flat.

Although the AZ GOP raised more than twice as much money this cycle for its non-federal account than it did in 2008, its overall fundraising was only slightly higher than two years ago. And, when one takes into account the money the party raised that was directed to the 2009 Tucson City Council race, the overall cycle-to-cycle fundraising was nearly identical.

According to the party’s post-general campaign finance report filed last week with the Secretary of State’s Office, the party raised $1,468,294 for its non-federal account, including $667,891 from individual contributors. Both numbers represent dramatic increases over 2008, when the GOP raised only $710,030, of which $180,415 was from individuals. However, more than a quarter of this cycle’s individual contributions were used to fund the party’s 2009 campaign efforts in the Tucson City Council race.

While the Republican Party’s non-federal account was more robust in 2010 than in 2008, its federal fundraising was significantly less. Two years ago, the GOP raised $1,771, 227 in federal money, compared to only $1,236,633 this year. The combined total of $2,704,927 the party raised is an increase from the $2,481,257 raised in 2008. However, if the Tucson City Council race money is removed, the party raised only about $40,000 more than in 2008.

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