Midlands legislative races outraising candidates elsewhere in S.C.

While the slow economy has made campaign fundraising tough going for many candidates around the state, you couldn’t tell that from watching legislative races in the Midlands. 

According to the October campaign finance reports, Midlands candidates for six key legislative contests are largely doing well in their fundraising efforts, and much better than those running in high-profile races elsewhere in South Carolina.

In these races, the twelve candidates in the six Midlands races have raised roughly two million dollars for their races, averaging $166,792.20 per candidate, with only one raising less than $100,000. Only two went into the final weeks with less than twenty thousand on hand and seven of them had in excess of fifty thousand left to spend, promising plenty of additional fireworks in those races:

              Cash-on-Hand / Raised since July report / Total raised

Senate 20 - Race total: $407,370.73
Courson, R 227,003.08  / 65,115.00  / 249,014.49
Rikard, D        29,767.83  / 30,105.00  / 158,356.24

Senate 23 - Race total: $348,599.82
Knotts, R        30,989.55  / 8,950.00  / 266,959.77
Shealy, P          8,940.18  / 21,775.00  / 81,640.05

Senate 26 - Race total: $364,562.78
Vaughters, R     9,774.60  / 57,951.88  / 129,650.42
Setzler, D      115,906.57  / 73,887.12  / 234,912.36

Senate 35 - Race total: $358,814.95
Barwick, R 72,779.55  / 107,139.94  / 178,687.44
McElveen, D 69,562.87  / 102,719.00  / 180,127.51

House 75 - Race total: $310,569.76
Finlay, R         58,980.88  / 75,621.24  / 191,642.33
McCulloch, D 46,994.42  / 64,172.43  / 118,927.43

House 78 - Race total: $211,588.44
Brady, R        71,369.45  / 49,504.32  / 101,298.44
Bernstein, D 53,394.39  / 40,322.00  / 110,290.00


However, in looking at reports from seven closely watched two-way contests outside the Midlands (Senate 2, 6, 41; House 97, 114, 115; 8th Circuit Solicitor), candidates across the rest of the state raised far less than those in the Midlands:

              Cash-on-Hand / Raised since July report / Total raised

Senate 2 - Race total: $177,626.12
Martin, R 58,630.78  / 12,111.16  / 156,523.12
Rice, P        2,371.65  / 15,462.00  / 21,103.00

Senate 6 - Race total: $172,534.12
Fair, R      13,759.84  / 5,275.00  / 117,499.12
Reece, R   12,589.55  / 18,195.00  / 55,035.00

Senate 41 - Race total: $118,545.45
Thurm'd, R  23,734.57  / 49,144.70  / 55,256.67
Tinkler, D   55,876.64  / 62,288.78  / 63,288.78

House 97 - Race total: $48,572.35
Carter, R   17,866.23  / 21,156.80  / 21,156.80
Knight, D   28,415.18  / 17,460.74  / 27,415.55

House 114 - Race total: $508,589.55
Harrell, R 25,987.91 / 55,921.23 / 503,154.55
Steinberger, P 2,768.98 / 2,985.00 / 5,435.00

House 115 - Race total: $80,165.19
McCoy, R   34,736.19  / 20,270.00  / 39,635.19
Tempel, P   17,403.00  / 17,839.17  / 40,530.00

8th Circuit Solicitor - Race total: $37,684.38
Stumbo, R   14,813.59  / 5,549.00  / 26,334.00
Shealy, D         215.03  / 3,493.00  / 11,350.38

Only three of the fourteen candidates raised more than $100,000. Seven of the candidates reported having less than twenty thousand dollars cash on hand and nine of them raised less than that amount since the mid-July reporting period. Two others barely raised more than twenty thousand.

While all of the Midlands races ranged from a low of $211,588.84 to a high of $407,370.73, the non-Midlands races were in a lower range, from a low of $37,684.38 to a high of $177,626.12, not counting Harrell's race.

Not counting the Harrell race, an outlier which significantly skewed the averages, the candidates in the other six races pulled in an average of $45,366.26 per candidate. This means many of them will have a greater challenge in funding more basic operations in the closing weeks than most Midlands candidates and may have to balance spending the time left before Election Day between raising money and reaching voters.

These candidates in the second group will have their work cut out for them, having to reach the same numbers of voters with a lot less money. However, those voters who don’t like being inundated with weeks of campaign advertising may find this fundraising shortfall to be a good thing.

Most we spoke with felt that once the economy recovered and donors had more to give, this imbalance of support between regions would readjust itself.

According to the website Ballotpedia, spending in state legislative races peaked with a total of  $8,365,255 in contributions in 2008, declining to $6,654,588 in 2010. While these races we've listed are not the only contested legislative races, they do account for most of them and all the big-spending contests. The $2.6 million raised in those races points to a continued downward trend in campaign fundraising which seems to have gone hand-in-hand with the economic downturn. 

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