Sunday, December 30, 2012

Quick $ analysis of 2012 AZ Congressional races

It has to be quick - it only includes net operating expenditures from candidates' principal committees.  I searched the FEC's website for a while, but could not find a way to filter independent expenditure reports by particular candidate, race, or even state.  Could have gone through every IE report filed this year, but that would take more time than is available on a Sunday afternoon.

There was a *lot* of IE money expended during the 2012 elections.

The sources of information:

Arizona Secretary of State's Official Election Canvass of Results
Post-General Election campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission

Further caveats:  The "net operating expenditures" number is from the applicable candidate's final 2012 campaign finance filing; it includes funds expended during the primary election, if any.  Since I could not think of a way to separate funds that only affected the primary vote, all expenditures were included, not just monies spent during the general election part of the cycle.

In addition, some candidates faced a "real" primary (viable opposition) while facing a walkover in the general, some faced the opposite combination, some neither, and one race, CD9, had both competitive primaries (D and R) and a competitive general election.

Candidate CD Net Operating Expenditures
Gen. Election Votes
$/gen elect vote

Kirkpatrick  - W 1 2313080.23
Paton 1 1390118.16
Barber - W 2 1254521.72
McSally 2 1342020.03
Grijalva - W 3 934605.93
Gosar - W 4 1089090.06
Salmon - W 5 1049982.19
Schweikert - W 6 1668447.82
Pastor - W 7 637532.76
Franks - W 8 386233.88
Parker 9 1062250.42
Sinema - W 9 2024619.87
Flake - W Sen 9133038.17
Carmona Sen 6016542.06
W = Won race

Of these, the following had

- a competitive primary and an uncompetitive general - CDs 4 (R), 5 (R), 6 (R)

- an uncompetitive primary and an uncompetive general - CDs 3 (D), 7 (D), 8 (R)

- an uncompetitive primary and a competitive general - CDs 1 (D), 2 (D and R), US Sen (D)

- a competitive primary and a competitive general - CD 9 (D and R), 1 (R), US Sen (R)

Note: "competitive" and "uncompetitive" are not synonyms for "contested" and "uncontested".  In many cases, in the primary, the general, or both, there were other candidates on the ballot, but their likelihoods of winning fell into the "snowball's chance in August" category.  Not a commentary on the character of the "minor" candidates, just an assessment of their electability.

I would have expected that there would be a correlation between competitive races and $/vote, there doesn't seem to be one. 

For example, Trent Franks (R) spent the lowest amount per vote, and his race was all but completely uncontested, with only token opposition in both the primary and the general.

On the other hand, Ann Kirkpatrick (D) spent the most money per vote, and while she had a competitive general election race against Jonathan Paton (R), she had a practically noncompetitive race (Wenona Benally Baldenegro).

There might be a way to show a correlation between money spent and votes earned, but other factors would have to be part of the formula - some combination of partisan voter registrations, partisan advantage/disadvantage, some way to account for the influence of primary election expenditures on the general election (and make no mistake, there is such an influence), and, of course, Independent Expenditures.

I can find some of the info (voter reg stuff), but does anybody have any ideas on how to find and work with the other data?


Mitch M. said...

Hey, Craig! Happy New Year's, thanks for this post, and for all of your great coverage!

I have had a comparison of Independent Expenditures in the Arizona Congressional races on my "future stories" list since just after the election, but have not gotten around to it yet. (I did them for most of the competitive races in '10. For example, CD1:

The FEC database IS worthless for that. OpenSecrets is the key. Unfortunately, I have found many problems in just using their numbers without close review: (1) groups often don't properly code the FEC form, so OpenSecrets incorrectly tags them as "supported"/"opposed"; I overcame that by printing out their table and comparing it closely with my own knowledge of the groups; (2) the skewing of the primary being mixed with the general (especially in the case of Flake).
Give me a buzz, and maybe we can divvy up the task! Thanks again.

cpmaz said...

Hi Mitch. Back at ya on the good work.

I found out yesterday how useless the FEC's website is after a couple of hours of poking around looking for IE info. It's there, but it is totally unsorted.

I may have to breakdown and follow your path of using OpenSecrets. I don't like using indirect sources when direct sources are available, but there may not be a choice here.