The seven or eight people who love watching political ads will be in for an exciting three weeks.
Everybody else in Missouri may want to become familiar with the “fast forward” button on their DVRs.
That’s because Tuesday’s campaign finance reports confirmed the assumption that candidates and campaigns are stocking up for a final push before the Aug. 5 primary election. Whether it’s a committee supportive of a 0.75 percent sales tax increase for transportation or candidates for St. Louis County executive, campaign committees will have plenty of cash to flood the airwaves.
But Tuesday’s campaign finance numbers suggest the electioneering won’t cease on Aug. 6.
So without further delay, let’s answer the five questions we asked at the beginning of the week about this week’s filings:
How much money will the proponents and the opponents of the transportation tax have for the final push?
To put it succinctly: The proponents will have lots of money, while the opponents won’t.
The pro-transportation tax group – known as Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs – raked in nearly $1.43 million in the last quarter. Most of the money came from contracting companies and labor unions that would presumably benefit from an estimated $5.4 billion worth of transportation projects over the next decade.
After spending a little less than $200,000 on things like consultants, polling and mailers, the committee has nearly $1.6 million to spend during the last few weeks. Supporters of the proposal – such as St. Louis Building Trades secretary-treasurer Jeff Aboussie – expect that money to be used for all kinds of advertisements.
“It’s a different type of campaign,” Aboussie said. “It’s not as labor-intensive. I think it’s more direct mail, communicating with your members – that sort of stuff.”
Meanwhile, the organized opposition to the tax – Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions – raised a little over $1,000 this quarter. While many opponents gathered at STL Style to film a web video this week, MBTS treasurer Tom Shrout has said his group are unlikely to match proponents.
“We don’t have much money, but we do have a production company that will do a YouTube video for us,” Shrout said. “We’re going to have to [fight the tax] through social media and earned media… to get the word out.”
How much money will the other ballot initiatives have?
Not as much as the pro-transportation tax committee, that’s for sure.
In fact, the only committees with any significant amounts of funding this quarter were committees supporting and opposing the so-called “Right to Farm” initiative. Other ballot initiatives either supporting or opposing efforts to expand gun rights and protect electronic communications from unreasonable search and seizures didn’t receive much cash this cycle.
Barring a last-minute surge of funds opposing the initiatives, the fund raising appears to favor the ballot initiatives. It’s a general rule of thumb in Missouri politics that initiatives or constitutional amendments without organized, money-spending opposition tend to pass. Whether that proves true with the transportation tax remains to be seen.
How much have St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and Councilman Steve Stenger spent so far in the Democratic primary?
In an eerie coincidence, Stenger and Dooley have about the same amount of money to spend in the last three weeks.
Dooley ended the quarter with about $479,000 while Stenger managed to have around $477,000. Both of those totals could easily purchase wall-to-wall TV ads before Aug. 5.
A cursory look found that Stenger spent about $427,000 on ad buys, much more than the $124,000 that Dooley spent. That suggests that Stenger’s ads have probably been more visible – and up longer – than Dooley’s.
There’s one thing that’s for sure: Both candidates' ads will get more and more negative. But it’s hard to see how Stenger could outdo Dooley in terms of smearing his opponent, especially after the incumbent released an ad today trying to link his opponent to a prostitution kingpin.
How are state Senate contenders faring?
With the exception of candidates in the St. Charles-based 2nd senatorial district, most state Senate contenders spent the quarter raising money for the November election.
For example: State Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, took in $225,000 in the past quarter. Unlike the three Republicans running for the 24th District seat, Schupp is unopposed this August – which means she can use her roughly $460,000 of cash on hand to take on whoever wins the GOP nomination. (Of the three candidates, Jay Ashcroft outraised Jack Spooner and Robb Hicks by a large amount.)
Thanks to an influx of funds from the state party, Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, had a better fundraising quarter than Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart. Both candidates now have six-figure totals for the 22nd senatorial district seat in the fall.
The money situation is a bit more lopsided in the 10th senatorial district in northeast Missouri. State Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, has about $255,000 – far more than the $19,500 that state Rep. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy has in the bank. Democrats have touted Schieffer as a hard worker who has won tough elections before, but he’ll probably need more money than what he has to win in the Republican-leaning district.
Meanwhile, the three Republicans running for the 2nd District seat – Bob Onder, Chuck Gatschenberger and Vicki Schneider – all have at least $250,000 of cash on hand for the final few weeks. Onder has $309,000 in the bank, Schneider has about $297,000 and Gatschenberger has around $251,000.
How are the 2016 contenders doing?
Most of the announced statewide candidates are steadily building their war chests for the next couple of years. Some Republicans are either approaching or have surpassed $1 million.
For instance, state Auditor Tom Schweich raised around $310,000 this quarter – even though he’s facing no Democratic opposition for re-election this year. He raised more money this quarter and has more cash on hand than former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, who – unlike Schweich – has announced her gubernatorial bid.
Two Republicans who have either announced or are thinking about running for attorney general – Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka – are either close to or over the $1 million cash on hand mark. And state Sen. Eric Schmitt, a Glendale Republican who recently announced a state treasurer bid, would have over a million dollars in the bank if somebody counted the $300,000 worth of donations he received in July.
Still, none of the candidates has come close to Attorney General Chris Koster. He took in $526,896 since April 1 and reported $2.25 million in the bank. While he’s committed to sharing his bounty with other candidates, the notoriously prolific fundraiser should have the funds to skate to the November 2016 election without a primary.
And that’s going to put Koster at a major fund-raising advantage, especially if Hanaway and Schweich have to spend their money on a potentially divisive primary.
On the Trail, a weekly column, weaves together some of the intriguing threads about Missouri politics.