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 July 31 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. 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.
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 much.
In the 2005 mayoral race, former State Sen. Mark Mallory spent nearly $380,000, while ex-Councilman David Pepper spent $1.2 million — more than three times his opponent. Mallory still won the vote 52-48 percent.
Most political science points to money having a marginal, if any, electoral impact.
Jennifer Victor, a political science professor at George Mason University, says on her blog that campaigns can help focus voters and deliver successful messages, but campaigns and fundraising rarely dictate electoral outcomes.
Instead, political scientists cite other factors as more important indicators: economic growth, the direction of the city, state and country, incumbency or successorship, name likability and recognition, and party affiliation.
The mayoral primary election is Sept. 10, followed by the final election on Nov. 5. The next finance reports are due Oct. 24.