Thursday, December 9, 2010


(Arizona's Politics tried to pay close attention to the flow of national spending in Arizona's competitive congressional races during the campaign, through our "Following Money In Arizona's Politics" series.

Congressional District 5, encompassing much of eastern Maricopa County, received quite a bit of that attention throughout the general election campaign.  In fact, the negative ads and outside spending started before the ink on the primary election results was dry. Everyone expected a tough rematch battle between Democratic incumbent Harry Mitchell and Republican David Schweikert.

And, it was.  Most visibly, on the air, where ads attacking each other were often run back-to-back during commercial breaks on the local news.  In the end, however, the Republican wave was more than enough to send Schweikert to Congress on his third try for the office.*  Schweikert received 110,374 votes (52.0%) to Mitchell's 91,749 (43.2%), while Libertarian Nick Coons collected 10,127 votes (4.8%). (per official state canvass)
CD5 is the third in our series of post-election reviews of where the money came from. (CD1, CD7) Most of the information is collected from the Center for Responsive Politics - which compiles the required FEC filings. However, totals here may differ from CRP's due to occasionally-confusing coding by the outside group's filings; Arizona's Politics has attempted to catch those (in?)advertent errors.)
The outside spending on the Schweikert/Mitchell race began quickly with the 60-Plus Association's ad attacking the Democratic incumbent on healthcare reform ruling the airwaves at first.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ("DCCC") responded, the National Republican Congressional Committee ("NRCC") entered the ring a few days later, and the air war accelerated right up 'til the last vote dropped.

The final total for outside groups ended up in Schweikert's favor, $1.7Million to $1.5Million.  However, if you remove homegrown outside money - the Arizona Republican Party ($84,998) and John McCain's committee ($80,472) - the national independent expenditure money was virtually even.  This is also reflected in the DCCC vs. NRCC numbers - $1,179,157 vs. $1,145,283!

Here are the other IE's on behalf of Mitchell:  $267,316 by America's Families First Action Fund, $29,266 by America Votes, and $4,600 from NARAL Pro-Choice America. (The UFCW and Sierra Club spent $436 and $10, respectively.)

Going to bat for Schweikert were:  the Club For Growth ($153,284), the SuperPAC for America ($89,794), $52,224 from the NRA, and $35,292 from the American Academy of Ophthalmologists. (Didn't see that one coming, didja?)  The 60-Plus Association spent $19,251, National Right to Life dropped $13,039, and Revere America kicked in $1,302.

The close contest in outside money spent was also reflected in the spending by the candidates' committees themselves.  Adding in their disbursements, nearly $3.8M was spent by Mitchell or on his behalf, compared to $3.3M by Schweikert or on his behalf.

BOTTOM LINE: It was a great win for Schweikert and the Republicans.  Like Gosar in CD1, Schweikert enjoyed an advantage in outside money spent on his behalf;  however, unlike his new colleague, Schweikert was outspent by the incumbent/on his behalf.  Nevertheless, his victory margin exceeded Gosar's. 

This was the most expensive congressional campaign in Arizona (maybe even including the Senate race, after all is picked through), clocking in at slightly over $7.1 Million.  Still, Schweikert went into debt ($530,000, all but $30,000 to himself); more on that to come.

*The 8.8% spread in favor of Schweikert was less than the average margin of victory for the statewide GOP.

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