Cranley Outraises Qualls in Mayoral Race

History suggests fundraising is not necessarily an indicator of strength

Mayor John Cranley
Mayor John Cranley

Ex-Councilman John Cranley is outraising Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the 2013 mayoral race by roughly $124,000. Some are calling the fundraising lead an important indicator of strength, but the history and research of money in politics show the lead might not matter much, if at all.

The numbers came in yesterday as political candidates from around the state filed their finance reports. So far, Cranley has raised about $472,000, compared to Qualls’ $348,000. Of that money, Cranley has about $264,000 still in hand, and Qualls has nearly $193,000.

The disparity is unsurprising to the campaigns. The Cranley campaign has always said it needs $1 million to win. Qualls, who’s been polled as the slight favorite, has a tamer goal of $750,000.

The City Council races are similarly sprawled with cash. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading the pack with nearly $279,000, while newcomer Greg Landsman topped challengers and even some council members with a total raised of $165,000.

Given all the cash pouring into the campaigns, many people assume it plays a pivotal role. But a look at the history and research shows fundraising might not matter all that much.

Money clearly didn’t matter in the 2005 mayoral race. During that campaign, former State Sen. Mark Mallory spent nearly $380,000. Ex-Councilman David Pepper spent $1.2 million — more than three times his opponent. Mallory still won the vote 52-48 percent.

In contrast, money might have boosted Sittenfeld to second place in the 2011 Council races, putting the relatively new challenger only behind the widely known Qualls. Sittenfeld raised $306,000 for that campaign, the most out of anyone in the race.

Still, most political science points to money having a marginal, if any, electoral impact. Jennifer Victor, a political science professor at George Mason University, explains the research in

her blog

: “Campaigning may help voters focus their attention (

see this

), be persuasive in some cases (

see this

), and help deliver successful message (

see this

). Frequently, macro-economic trends are the best predictors of presidential elections. History tells us that all that money spent by outsiders may not affect the outcome of the election — because campaigns (generally) don’t matter (see political science research

here

,

here

, and

here

, for example).”

Instead, political scientists cite other factors as much more important indicators: economic growth, the direction of the city, state and country, incumbency or successorship, name likability and recognition, and political affiliation.

The mayoral primary election is Sept. 10, followed by the final election on Nov. 5. The next finance reports are due Oct. 24.

[Correction: This story originally said $134,000 when the correct number is $124,000.]

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