The most expensive race in Washington state politics keeps getting pricier: $53 a vote as of noon Monday.
With control of the state Senate up in the air, money has been flooding into a handful of key races, none more than the contest between Republican incumbent Andy Hill and Democratic challenger Matt Isenhower on Seattle’s Eastside.
Businesses, wealthy donors and other political players inside and outside Washington state have pumped $2.88 million into this one race — more than any other for a seat in the state Legislature. It works out to $33 for every registered voter in the 45th Legislative District, which includes parts of Duvall, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish and Woodinville.
With only 62 percent of those voters expected to bother to vote in this mid-term election, moneyed interests are sinking $53 to win a single scribbled-in box on each ballot in the district.
Hedge fund manager Kevin Liu from Redmond said all the spending on political ads is not a good use of money.
“They can advertise all they want — I just couldn’t care less,” Liu said. “I think elections should be based on merit, not based on who has the biggest wallet.”
“Take the money out of politics and you get better candidates that way, for sure,” said Kirkland physical therapist Ben Wobker.
Money Usually Wins
While many Eastside voters say they aren’t swayed by political ads, research by the National Institute on Money in State Politics shows that candidates who spend the most money do win most of the time. Incumbents who outspend their challengers win 98 percent of the time.
Andy Hill’s campaign and his independent supporters have amassed $1.6 million, about a quarter more than Matt Isenhower and his supporters’ $1.27 million.
Statewide, more than $108 million has gone into this year’s state and local elections, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission data.
Nationally, the Center for Responsive Politics expects 2014 to edge out 2010 as the most expensive mid-term election on record, at around $3.7 billion. The main difference this year, according to Federal Election Commission data analyzed by the center: A much bigger share of spending is by outside groups that are not officially connected to any candidate’s campaign. Those outside groups tend to have fewer, larger donors than traditional political campaigns.
This year’s Washington elections haven’t matched the ballot measure-fueled burst of political spending the state saw in 2011 and 2013. Business interests in those years spent record-breaking amounts on ads aiming to sway voters on labeling genetically modified foods ($42.5 million in 2013) and privatizing liquor sales ($32.5 million in 2011).
For both measures, the side that spent the most money was victorious.