Buchanan v. Wilson: The final AD15 numbers

Some of the numbers came in too late for inclusion in my roundup for tomorrow’s paper, but campaign finance reports filed today show the East Bay’s only hotly contested general election for a state legislative seat was quite costly.

Incumbent Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, raised $3.275 million and spent $3.266 million in 2009-10 to fend off a challenge from Republican nominee Abram Wilson, San Ramon’s mayor; Wilson raised $1.27 million and spent $1.258 million.

Buchanan defeated Wilson by a little more than 13,000 votes, a margin of 6.8 percentage points. It was a hard-fought race, but I think Buchanan probably scored the most crushing blow with an advertisement calling attention to the seemingly exorbitant salary paid to San Ramon’s city manager – something sure to irk many California votes in a year in which public salary and benefit scandals like the one in Bell attracted so much outrage. It cast a shadow over Wilson’s claim to fiscal conservative bona fides, and that was all she wrote.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W

    The city manager issue (Wilson apparently not even knowing what was in the employment contract he signed) and selling his soul signing Grover’s “pledge” did it for me. But that’s a godawful amount of money spent by Buchanan (for an Assembly seat!!!). Wilson probably would have won if the campaign funds had been more equal.

  • ralph hoffmann

    Josh, what’s the $/vote of these campaign expenditures? By comparison, an election clerk earns $100 for a 16 hour day for everything on a ballot. Meg spent $43.25/vote to lose and Jerry spent $36.43 million to win. A benevolent dictatorship is looking better and better than our democratic republic every election. Think of all the money China saves and doesn’t have to worry about unions and corporations bribing electeds.

  • Josh Richman

    Ralph: For Buchanan, $3,266,005.22/104,441 votes = $31.27 per vote; for Wilson, $1,258,096.56/91,378 votes = $13.77 per vote – more bang for the buck, I suppose, but there’s no prize for second place. (Both ran unopposed in their primaries, so we’re pretty safe doing a total-spending-to-general-election-votes comparison.)

  • ralph hoffmann

    Three Clerks and an Inspector receive ~$500 for a 1000 vote precinct or $0.50/vote. Of course there are ballot printing costs and County Election Office Staff costs. Surely the per vote cost of having an election doesn’t approach the campaign spending. My points are: 1. Eliminating polling places and conducting a 100% mail-in ballot is against what many voters want, and can’t be justified by cost savings.
    2. We can’t compete with benevolent dictatorships in election or manufacturing costs!

  • Josh Richman

    Ralph: I don’t think we want to compete with benevolent dicatorships in election costs. Benevolence is in the eye of the beholder, and when the dictator chooses not to be benevolent anymore, you’re up a creek.