Election data offers clues that tell story of primary

Bryan Townsend, seen here campaigning in Dover during primary voting, topped all the 18 Delawareans running in the primary for statewide offices in spending per vote received. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Bryan Townsend, seen here campaigning in Dover during primary voting, topped all the 18 Delawareans running in the primary for statewide offices in spending per vote received. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Although the financial figures for candidates in last week’s primary election are not all filed, a preliminary look at the data indicates the three main Democratic contenders for Delaware’s open seat in the House of Representatives spent more than $22 per vote.

Looking at expenditures by and vote totals for each candidate in the primary allows for the creation of one figure that shows how much each hopeful spent per vote they received.

However, the individual numbers are expected to change once updated financial reports covering the last three weeks before the primary are submitted next month. With the final weeks of a campaign often seeing significant spending, the figures could in some cases change drastically after all the reports are in.

VOTE 1 COL by . Democratic nominee Lisa Blunt Rochester, who earned 44 percent of the vote, spent about $637,000 through Aug. 24, the last reporting period, and garnered 27,920 votes, meaning she spent $22.82 per vote.

While that exceeds most of the other statewide candidates’ figures, it is third among the three Democrats who earned more than 6 percent in the congressional race.

Sean Barney spent $23.74 per vote, and Bryan Townsend topped all the 18 Delawareans running in the primary for statewide offices by effectively spending $29.78 for each of his supporters as of the most recent financial submissions.

Mike Miller, Scott Walker and Elias Weir, who combined for about 11 percent, did not file financial disclosures for spending, indicating they each had expenses of less than $5,000.

While dollars spent per votes earned has its flaws as a method of judging campaigns, it does give an early look at spending patterns. A candidate who spends three times more per vote than his or her opponent, for instance, is either pulling in a lot more votes or is burning through cash.

Of course, the goal is to get elected, not to do so while spending the least per candidates, so spending a lot of money is not necessarily a sign of inefficiency.

In the Republican primary for governor, Colin Bonini spent $4.87 per vote, while Lacey Lafferty spent $8.01 per vote, according to data current through Sept. 5. Nearly all of Ms. Lafferty’s money came from self-loans.

In the lieutenant governor primary, which featured six Democrats, Bethany Hall-Long won with a plurality of 29 percent. She spent $11.08 per vote. Kathy McGuiness, who was third in the race, spent $26.98 for each vote she received, more than $10 above her competitors.

Second-place finisher Sherry Dorsey Walker had a much better ratio than any candidate in the race, spending just $2.47 per vote. Ciro Poppiti expended $15.04 for every vote he earned, while Greg Fuller spent $7.37 per vote. Brad Eaby, who finished last in the race, spent $13.63 per vote.

Both Republican seeking the GOP nomination for insurance commissioner spent less than $1 per vote, with George Parish spending just 92 cents for each person. The victor, Jeff Cragg, did even better, expending 62 cents per supporter.

On the Democratic side, nominee Trinidad Navarro spent $1.57 per vote, while incumbent Karen Weldin Stewart spent more than three times that at $5.37 per vote.

A look at which of the 41 representative districts the candidates won also sheds some light on their support. Patterns begin to emerge, mostly along geographical lines.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, for example, Ms. Dorsey Walker won seven districts, all of which are in the blue-collar Wilmington and New Castle areas. Ms. Dorsey Walker is a Wilmington city councilwoman.

Mr. Eaby won three districts, all in central Kent County, where he serves as a Levy Court commissioner. Mr. Poppiti’s support was clustered in seven districts around northern New Castle.

Ms. McGuiness, a Rehoboth Beach commissioner, earned pluralities in five districts in Sussex County, and Mr. Fuller won the two districts closest to his home in Lincoln.

State Sen. Hall-Long, who represents the Middletown area, was the only candidate to win districts in multiple counties. While most of her support came from Newark and rural New Castle and Kent counties, she also won some of the northern- and southernmost districts in the state.

In all, she received the most votes in 17 districts.

In the congressional race, Ms. Blunt Rochester dominated around Wilmington, the most heavily populated area in the state. She won 28 districts, with support in all three counties.

State Sen. Townsend picked up six districts in and around Newark, the area he represents in the Senate, as well as two districts around Milton, Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, the most liberal parts of Sussex.

Mr. Barney won five districts, all located in Sussex County.

Ms. Lafferty won a majority of the votes in the 40th Representative District, which contains her hometown of Laurel. State Sen. Bonini otherwise swept the state, reflected in his 40-percent victory.

Mr. Cragg, who beat Mr. Parish by about 3 percent, won 29 districts. Mr. Parish, the former Sussex County clerk of the peace, swept Sussex but managed only to win a majority of votes in only three other districts.

Mr. Navarro earned 55 percent of the Democratic vote and a majority in 25 districts. Ms. Weldin Stewart did better than her opponent in Kent and Sussex but failed to overcome the advantages New Castle and its large population base offered to Mr. Navarro.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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