Mike Rawlings, the candidate with the most votes in Saturday’s mayoral election, spent about $1.47 million for his 28,419 votes, or $51.67 per vote. Runner-up David Kunkle spent $148.100 for his 22,214 votes, or $6.67 per vote. That’s an awfully big spending spread between leader and runner-up.
That information, courtesy of Rudy Bush with the DMN, begs another question: If Kunkle had $1.47 million to spend in Saturday’s election, what would that have meant to his vote count? And if Rawlings only had $148,100 to spend, would he still have garnered 41 percent of the vote?
Those are interesting questions that, of course, can’t be answered. Virtually no voters actually heard candidates speak in person, so votes were influenced by mailers and TV ads — if a candidate had the money for them.
Few people likely had heard of Rawlings prior to his spending blitzkrieg, so the money was the biggest factor in his showing. Meanwhile, Kunkle had plenty of name recognition prior to the vote, but he didn’t have enough money to amplify his platform — either voters already knew Kunkle and liked him, or they voted for Rawlings (or Ron Natinsky, another better-funded candidate) because the money made a difference.
Jeff Siegel talked Monday here on the blog about the importance of pinning down both candidates on the city’s messed-up budget prior to the runoff vote June 18. Neither has been forthcoming with specific plans about how to balance the budget, and who can blame them? If another $60 million needs to be cut, it’s better from a election PR standpoint to talk in generalities rather than to specifically say “I’m going to cut 350 cops” and then try to withstand the fallout.
Considering that Rawlings had the most money the first time around, it’s not a big reach to assume he’ll have the biggest war chest this time, either. Hopefully, with all of that money, he’ll throw in some specifics in all of those mailers potential voters will no-doubt be receiving. Odds are, though, he won’t: Since he has enough money to keep painting himself in broad-brush strokes, he’s probably hoping voters won’t notice he isn’t coughing up a lot of specifics.
And as for Kunkle, since he’s likely to continue to be funding-challenged, it would be wise to be specific and show he has a plan — that will probably get him enough free publicity to overcome some of Rawlings’ funding advantage and convince people that at least one candidate has a bankable plan to deal with the city’s issues. He can play it “safe” and continue to speak in generalities, but I’m betting that will likely doom his campaign, with continued voter disinterest leading the biggest spender to the victory podium.