Countywide candidates spent anywhere from $1.51 per vote to 5.9 cents per vote in last year's election campaign, an analysis of campaign spending shows.
The biggest spender was Republican County Clerk Gordy Hulten, who put more than $59,800 into winning his race, the most spent on a countywide race since Julia Rietz upended Republican State's Attorney John Piland in 2004. Rietz spent more than $45,000 in that race. Hulten was running for county clerk for the first time, having been appointed to the post two years ago when he replaced former Clerk Mark Shelden. Hulten received 39,589 votes in November, meaning he spent $1.51 for every vote he received.
And because he was elected to a two-year term, Hulten has to do it all over again in 2014. He also still owes himself $5,000 for a loan to his campaign a year ago.
Hulten's Democratic opponent, Urbana Alderman Charlie Smyth, spent less than half as much money — $24,576 — in his campaign. He spent 74 cents per vote. Smyth ended the campaign with $306 on hand and no campaign debt.
The most efficient spender among those who ran contested races and who have filed campaign disclosure reports was Republican Recorder of Deeds Barb Frasca. She spent just $2,434 winning a fifth term and got 40,941 votes, or 5.9 cents per vote. Her Democratic opponent, D'Anne Winston, has not filed a campaign disclosure report.
Finishing second to Hulten in the most expensive race was GOP Auditor John Farney, who spent about $42,000 winning election, or $1.15 per vote. More than half of Farney's campaign contributions came from either the county Republican Party, party officials or other Republican officeholders. The Democratic candidate for auditor, George Danos, spent a total of $17,662 last year — including running in a three-way primary election. Based only on his general election votes, Danos spent 51 cents per vote.
In the other big countywide contest last year, Republican Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman spent $1.08 per vote to the 43.6 cents per vote that Democrat Barbara Wysocki put up. While Blakeman didn't have to run in a primary, Wysocki did, making her campaign even more efficient per vote. Blakeman also benefited from heavy party-based financial support, getting almost all of her $38,000-plus from the party, and from GOP officeholders and party officials. Wysocki got $500 from the county Democratic Party (after the election), and a few hundred dollars from past and present county board members.
The most efficient countywide officeholders last year were Rietz and Coroner Duane Northrup, both of whom got more than 56,000 votes without spending a cent on campaign items. Both were unopposed for re-election.
Bambenek money. Champaign Republican John Bambenek, who got 35 percent of the vote in November when he challenged state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, in the 52nd Senate District race, ended up spending almost $17,000 in the campaign.
He did not end up with any campaign debt, although he said he lost money by losing business during the race. Bambenek runs a cybersecurity consulting business out of his Champaign home.
"My business was essentially idle so I took a drop in income," he said. "I have a business to rebuild now."
Bambenek closed out his Senate campaign fund by moving about $677 from the fund to a group called the "Conservative Champaign Committee." The group, Bambenek said, will serve as his own political action committee, allowing him to disburse the money to local political candidates or organizations.
By closing out his campaign fund, Bambenek no longer has to file quarterly campaign finance reports with the State Board of Elections. And he doesn't have to disclose what he does with the money given to the "Conservative Champaign Committee" until the group raises at least $3,000.
Bambenek said he doesn't know if he'll run for public office again.
One for the books. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $64 million trying to knock off Republican congressional candidates last year, according to the web site OpenSecrets.org.
Nationally, the No. 1 target of the DCCC's attacks was Rodney Davis, the newly inaugurated congressman in the 13th Congressional District that includes Champaign-Urbana.
The DCCC spent $3 million trying to defeat Davis, a Taylorville Republican who beat Democratic candidate David Gill by 1,002 votes. It had better luck on its No. 2 target nationally — Illinois' 17th Congressional District, where Democrat Cheri Bustos beat former U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, 53 percent to 47 percent.
Davis' net worth. The website OpenSecrets.org estimates that Davis is the 317th richest member of the 435-member House of Representatives.
Davis had an estimated net worth in 2011 of between $107,019 and $433,000, according to the website's calculations.
Davis had no liabilities. His largest asset was stock in the Litchfield-based Bank and Trust Co. The stock is estimated to be worth between $50,000 and $100,000. Davis also owns stock in McDonald's Corp. worth between $15,000 and $50,000.
OpenSecrets.org says that the median estimated net worth of the incoming House freshmen is almost exactly $1 million more than that of the typical American household — $1.06 million for the 94 incoming lawmakers versus $66,074 for the typical American household.
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, whose district includes Danville, has an estimated net worth of between $113,010 and $1.18 million, placing him 241st in the House.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at email@example.com.