Tarrant County politicians may have saved a little money last year.
Political battles are in no way inexpensive, but the grand total of $2.6 million spent on more than a dozen local races for state legislative and congressional races in November was far from steep.
Especially when compared to the hottest, most costly race in Texas last year: the fight for the 23rd Congressional District between U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, and former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.
That race cost the two candidates around $5 million — $29.12 per vote for Hurd and $15.75 per vote for Gallego, according to an analysis by the Texas Tribune, a Star-Telegram media partner that reviewed money spent in contested Texas races for the 2016 general election.
Hurd’s expenditures of nearly $3.2 million were “significantly greater than the entire amount spent by the more than three dozen U.S. House, Texas Senate, and Texas House candidates competing in the November Tarrant County elections,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.
“All together, $2.6 million is a very modest amount of expenditures for ... races with more than three dozen candidates,” Jones said, adding that it shows “not a single one of the ... legislative races in Tarrant County was competitive in November, since all of the districts were either safely Republican or safely Democrat.”
A review of Tarrant County candidates in November’s general election shows that state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, spent the most per vote, $8.13. Several local candidates, mostly Libertarians and Green Party members, reported spending nothing on their races.
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, whose district stretches from the edges of Tarrant County through Austin, spent the most dollars overall — nearly $375,000 — on his re-election bid, a review of state records shows.
The best thing a politician can have in uncertain political times is a large war chest.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston
The 2016 general election may have given candidates a chance to shore up their campaign reserves just in time.
“Challengers are furiously raising money and incumbents are stockpiling for future challenges,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “The best thing a politician can have in uncertain political times is a large war chest.
“Republicans are worried about Trump backlash and Democrats are unsure about whether or not the conservative base will be active, so raising money to be able to communicate with voters is of paramount importance.”
Here’s a look at money raised in local races for the general election in 2016, according to the Texas Tribune analysis, Texas Secretary of State data and Texas Ethics Commission filings.
Local House members and their challengers spent more than $688,000 in the general election last year, records shows.
District 92 State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, spent nearly $81,000, about $2.27 per vote for his more than 35,000 votes. Democrat Kim K. Leach spent more than $1,600, making each of the nearly 25,000 votes she received cost about seven cents. Libertarian Leah Sees spent no money for the 2,228 votes she claimed and the Green Party’s Travis Christal spent $131, or about 11 cents for each of the more than 1,150 votes he received.
District 93 State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, spent nearly $24,000, about 65 cents for each of the nearly 37,000 votes he received. Democrat Nancy Bean spent more than $10,100, about 43 cents for each of the nearly 24,000 votes she claimed.
“The safest seats, like Representatives Stickland and Krause, require less voter contact, so the price per voter is smaller,” Rottinghaus said.
District 94 State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, spent more than $36,000, or about 93 cents for each of the more than 39,000 votes he garnered. Libertarian Jessica Pallett spent no money for the 14,037 votes she logged.
District 95 State Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, spent more than $45,000, or $1.29 for each of the more than 35,100 votes she received. Republican Albert G. McDaniel spent less than $1,000, or about eight cents for each of the more than 11,300 votes he claimed.
District 96 State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, spent nearly $48,000, about $1.23 for each of the nearly 39,000 votes he earned. Democrat Sandra D. Lee spent about $9,600, about 33 cents for each of the more than 29,000 votes she received.
District 97 State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, spent more than $28,000, about 71 cents for each of the more than 39,500 votes he claimed. Democrat Elizabeth Tarrant spent more than $1,400, about five cents for each of the nearly 27,000 votes she earned. No reports were available for Libertarian Patrick Wentworth, who received more than 2,500 votes.
District 98 State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, spent more than $83,000, about $1.28 for each of the estimated 65,000 votes he accrued. Democrat Maricela Sanchez Chibli spent around $5,300, or about 25 cents for each of the 21,547 votes she drew.
District 99 State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, spent more than $72,000, or about $1.60 for each of the more than 45,000 votes he received. Libertarian Dan Hawkins spent no money on the more than 9,300 votes he received.
District 101 State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, spent nearly $250,000, or about $8.13 for each of the more than 30,500 votes he received. Republican Carlos “Charlie” Garza spent more than $8,700, or around 56 cents for each of the more than 15,500 votes he claimed. Turner this year became the Texas House Democratic Caucus leader.
“Party leaders like Chris Turner are more prodigious fundraisers and have an incentive to increase voter turnout in their districts, especially among their base,” Rottinghaus said.
The two locally contested Senate races last year prompted more than $579,000 in political spending.
Senate District 12 State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, spent nearly $350,000, or about $1.45 for each of 240,000 votes she received. Libertarian Rod Wingo reported spending no money on the more than 49,000 votes he landed.
It is expensive to run a competitive campaign and getting more expensive each year.
Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University.
Senate District 22 State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, spent more than $230,000, about $1.09 for each of the more than 211,000 votes he received. Democrat Michael Collins spent nearly $2,000, about two cents for each of the more than 88,000 votes he received.
“It is expensive to run a competitive campaign and getting more expensive each year,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University.
In Texas, Hurd vastly outspent all other Texas congressional incumbents — and challengers — in his fierce re-election bid.
He spent nearly $3.2 million, drawing about 110,000 votes at a cost of $29.12 per vote. At the same time, Gallego spent nearly $1.7 million, drawing more than 106,000 votes at a cost of $15.75 per vote, records show.
Congressional members whose districts include part of Tarrant County — and their challengers — spent a combined $1.4 million on their races last year.
CD 6 U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, spent more than $250,000, or about $1.58 for each of the more than 159,000 votes he received. Democrat Ruby Faye Woolridge spent around $13,000, or about 12 cents for each of the more than 106,000 votes she claimed. And the Green Party’s Darrel Smith Jr. spent no money for the more than 7,100 votes he landed.
CD 12 U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, spent nearly $300,000, around $1.52 for each of the more than 196,000 votes she received. Democrat Bill Bradshaw, who claimed more than 75,000 votes, and Libertarian Ed Colliver, who picked up more than 10,000 votes, reported spending no money.
The more competitive the district, the more the cost per vote.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston
CD 24 U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, spent more than $130,000, about 85 cents for each of the more than 154,000 votes he garnered. Democrat Jan McDowell spent more than $12,000, or about 11 cents for each of the nearly 108,000 votes accrued. Libertarian Mike Kolls, who received more than 8,500 votes, and the Green Party’s Kevin McCormick, who received more than 3,700 votes, spent no money.
CD 25 U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, spent nearly $375,000, or about $2.08 for each of the more than 180,000 votes he earned. Democrat Kathi Thomas spent more than $30,000, about 26 cents for each of the more than 116,000 votes she received. Libertarian Loren Marc Schneiderman, who received around 12,000 votes, spent no money.
CD 26 U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, spent more than $246,000, about $1.17 for each of the more than 210,000 votes he received. Democrat Eric Mauck, who received more than 93,000 votes, and Libertarian Mark Boler, who received nearly 13,000 votes, spent no money.
CD 33 U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, spent more than $318,000, about $3.43 for each of the more than 92,000 votes he received. Republican M. Mark Mitchell spent more than $47,000, about $1.43 for each of the more than 33,000 votes he landed.
“The more competitive the district, the more the cost per vote,” Rottinghaus said. “Campaigns prioritize voter contact of the candidate’s base when they worry about turnout. This is especially true for Democrats in an election year where the Republican Party turns out their base in Tarrant County.”