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The price of politics

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Cost of winning rises in local, state and federal races

By Caroline Curran, Reporter

In his unprecedented and historic bid for the White House, president-elect Barack Obama outspent his opponent Sen. John McCain nearly 2-to-1.

Obama raised $639.2 million, the most money raised by any candidate in the history of American politics. McCain raised $335.3 million—about half of what Obama raised.

Since the primaries, presidential candidates have raised $1.5 billion to fund their campaigns, which has changed the face of politics in America.

Total money raised by Democrats, including their primary candidates, came in just shy of the billion-dollar mark at $963.5 million.

Republican presidential candidates raised $589.2 million—less than what Obama’s individual campaign raised.

What does this mean for voters?

Obama spent nearly $10 per vote, while McCain spent less than $6 per vote.

In North Carolina, Obama and McCain raised $7.3 million and $2.7 million, respectively.

Obama, who clinched a symbolic victory in North Carolina by a mere .32 percent over McCain, spent $3.44 per vote, while McCain spent $1.32 per vote.

U.S. Senate, House races

In the battle between U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and U.S. Sen.-elect Kay Hagan, who defeated Dole by 8.5 percent of the vote, the two candidates raised nearly $28.9 million.

Between Jan. 1, 2007, and Oct. 15, 2008, Dole raised $15.5 million and spent $12.9 million. Hagan, a former state senator, raised $13.3 million and spent $12.1 million in the same time frame.

Dole spent $6.86 per vote, while Hagan spent $5.38 per vote.

In the District 7 House race, U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre defeated his challenger, Republican Will Breazeale, 213,145 votes to 96,623. McIntyre spent $1.1 million, or $5.23 per vote, while Breazeale spent $76,876, or 79 cents per vote. Breazeale, who announced on election night he would challenge McIntyre again in 2010, said he has a fundraising goal of $2 million for his next run for Congress.

State races

Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, North Carolina’s governor-elect, made history on Election Day when she became the first woman to be elected governor in state history. Perdue defeated Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory 2,121,320 votes to 1,980,769 votes.

Between Jan. 1, 2005, and Oct. 18, 2008, Perdue spent $15.4 million, or $7.26 per vote. McCrory, in the same period, spent $5.1 million, or $2.61 per vote.

In the race for state senate, the state’s longest-serving legislator R.C. Soles fended off his Republican challenger Betty Fennell 47,811 votes to 44,943 votes. Since Jan. 1, 2007, Soles spent $394,600, or $8.25 per vote. Fennell, whose campaign reporting period began Jan. 1, 2008, spent a total of $139,432, or $3.10 per vote. Rachel Joiner Merrill, a Libertarian candidate, raised less than $3,000 and therefore did not have to report campaign finances. However, she earned 5,413 votes in the three-county district.

State Rep. Bonner Stiller held off his Democratic challenger Vernon Ward 27,943 votes to 17,154 votes. Stiller spent a total of $28,104, or $1 per vote. Ward was not required to report his campaign finances.

Unopposed State Rep. Dewey Hill earned 22,701 votes. Hill spent $21,134, or $1.07 per vote.

Election rules mandate a candidate must declare at the time they open a campaign committee if they plan on raising more than $3,000. If a candidate raises more than $3,000, he or she must submit campaign finance reports. If not, there is no need to file campaign finance reports.

County races

The current election cycle for county commissioners, register of deeds and board of education candidates began Jan. 1, 2005.

In the county commissioners race, Republican Marty Cooke, who beat challenger Marion Davis, raised $5,375 in individual contributions and $1,500 from political committees. Davis raised $7,915 in individual contributions and $500 from political committees.

Charles Warren, the Republican challenger who unseated Democrat May Moore, declared his campaign finances, but only raised $775 in individual contributions and $1,000 from political committees.

Moore raised $6,125 in individual contributions and declared $1,997 in loan proceeds.

Democrat Randy Rhodes, who lost to incumbent Republican Bill Sue, raised more money than any other county commissioners candidate.

Rhodes raised $25,945 in individual contributions and $2,000 from political committees. Sue raised $17,281 in individual contributions and $4,138 from political committees.

Tom Rabon, the Democratic county commissioner who was ousted by Republican challenger Scott Phillips, was the only county commissioners candidate who did not declare his intentions to reach the $3,000 mark and did not file campaign finance reports.

Phillips raised $5,536 in individual contributions and raised $2,700 from political committees.

In the Brunswick County Board of Education race, Republican Catherine Cooke, who beat Democrat Christy Judah for the open District 2 contest, was the only board of education candidate who met the $3,000 threshold. Cooke raised $3,050.

In the register of deeds race, in which Republican challenger Brenda Mercer Clemmons defeated longtime register of deeds Robert Robinson, Clemmons raised a total of $7,494, while Robinson raised a total of $32,243.