Running a political campaign is not cheap. The recent Congressional race between David Jolly and Alex Sink — where millions of dollars were spent — can easily attest to that.
Many candidates, if not most, are faced with a reality where money is just as important as votes. And they will look everywhere to try and fill their coffers.
Locally, State Rep. Richard Corcoran is feeling how expensive it is to defend his seat in Tallahassee. The Land O’ Lakes Republican has raised more than $186,000 for his re-election bid so far, and already has spent just under $119,000 — more than any other House candidate in the state.
Corcoran’s campaign costs $9,100 each month, with thousands of dollars earmarked to printing costs, consulting fees, accounting and advertising.
There is just one small thing to mention about Corcoran’s 13-month campaign so far: The man in line to become House Speaker in late 2015 has been running for re-election … unopposed.
Corcoran is one of 59 incumbents who have yet to draw a challenger for the November elections. Because there’s still time for many of them to attract opposition, these lawmakers have kept fundraising in high gear, pulling in $4.5 million so far.
Yet, these candidates have only spent $1.1 million, or 24 percent, of the money they raised. Corcoran, on the other hand, has already spent 64 percent of his funds. He’s shelled out nearly twice the cash of other local unopposed candidates — Dan Raulerson, Janet Cruz and James Grant — combined.
Why would someone without an opponent need to spend $119,000? Because with or without a challenger, Corcoran sees the campaign as a chance to connect with his constituents.
“If there’s any chance you get where you can communicate with the voters and get their input, we do it,” Corcoran said. “Anytime you get input from the voters, that just makes you much more effective.”
Through the end of February, Corcoran has spent nearly $54,000 in printing and postage fees, $15,400 in advertising and $12,800 in consulting fees. A lot of those funds, however, were geared toward the representative’s tele-town hall, the most recent one featuring Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Corcoran used funds to print mailers and get them into his constituents’ mailboxes, inviting them to call in and get updates on criminal justice issues and other topics affecting lawmakers.
“We had 2,000 people on the phone, and they got to ask whatever question they want,” Corcoran said. “We get great feedback on this, telling us thank you so much for doing this. But honestly, as much as they’re appreciative of us, I’m much more appreciative of them, because they help me be a much better legislator.”
Still, those costs alone are double the annual median income of a Pasco County resident ($43,787, according to the U.S. Census Bureau). It’s also far more than Republican House candidate Danny Burgess, Democratic State Rep. Mark Danish, and former State Rep. Mark Harrison, who combined to spend just a little more than $35,000 in printing, advertising and consulting.
And those three candidates have opposition.
Yet, Corcoran’s spending habits are not as unusual as they seem. Unopposed candidates around the country spend lots of money, especially if they can afford it.
While it might help maintain avenues of communication with voters, it also has much more strategic purposes as well, said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch in Washington, D.C.
“It is designed to intimidate any opposition from entering the race,” he said. “Incumbents are able to raise funds from special interests who have business pending before the official, regardless of whether the official faces any serious election challenge.”
But a candidate spending a lot of money in an unopposed race could be looking to the future as well.
“The incumbent appears to be planning some future candidacy for higher office, and is using this opportunity (to) get his name well publicized across the state of Florida,” Holman said.
Seeking the state senate, a Congressional seat or even the governor’s mansion is not on Corcoran’s mind at all, he said. He has no interest in challenging Wilt Simpson or John Legg for their Senate seats, and Gus Bilirakis will likely occupy his Congressional seat for a long time to come.
Corcoran knows his approach is unusual, but that’s what he likes.
“If you talk to a lot of pundits, they say doing this much communication with the voters this early is not something they recommend,” Corcoran said. “I’m going against the grain.”
And Corcoran knows people are watching him closely. Back in 2010, his primary opponents accused him of using a credit card issued by the Republican Party for lavish spending, including a later-canceled family vacation to Spain. But Corcoran got support from then state Sen. Mike Fasano — now the Pasco County tax collector — who said Corcoran was an aide for then state House Speaker Marco Rubio, and that Corcoran was simply following orders.
Finally, what if someone decides to jump into the race for Corcoran’s seat? Would the lawmaker be ready, even though he’s already spent close to $120,000?
“I have to look, but we still have about $60,000 in the bank, and I could raise more,” he said. “We feel good with having enough money.”
Published March 19, 2014
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.