Friday, April 18, 2014

HAWVER: What will campaign cash tell us?

By MARTIN HAWVER, At the Rail | 12/30/2013

While some of us in the Statehouse/political clan are waiting for our blood alcohol content to drop below 0.08 percent after New Year’s Eve, all of us are waiting for Jan. 10.

That’s the day candidates for state offices have to present to the Governmental Ethics Commission their reports on how much money they raised — and from whom — and what they have in their campaign accounts for the coming 2014 election.

While some of us in the Statehouse/political clan are waiting for our blood alcohol content to drop below 0.08 percent after New Year’s Eve, all of us are waiting for Jan. 10.

That’s the day candidates for state offices have to present to the Governmental Ethics Commission their reports on how much money they raised — and from whom — and what they have in their campaign accounts for the coming 2014 election.

That report, for better or worse, is New Year’s resolution No. 1 for those seeking statewide or Kansas House seats this year. (And, they tend to keep that resolution better than most of us ... who generally just vow that we want to lose weight and give up on it before we FedEx ourselves smaller belts.)

The key is that Jan. 1 is the last day for receipt of campaign contributions from registered lobbyists, political action committees or unions — virtually everyone but friends and family — until sine die adjournment of the Legislature this spring.

So, that Jan. 10 report will be the first look we get at how successful candidates have been at raising significant amounts of money for the new year’s new election. A big number shows that a candidate is really serious about this election business.

But recall, State Rep. Mike Peterson, D-Kansas City, spent $2,455 in election year 2012 to keep his seat, and Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, spent $77,663 in the last election cycle and lost.

What we might see is just how serious incumbents and announced challengers for House seats are about assembling the money they’ll need to at least start their campaigns. More will flow in from individuals, and after the session, lobbyists, political action committees, businesses and unions will make contributions ... but what better way to show that you are serious than to have done groundwork in the off-election year?

For House members, their tally might show spunk in preparing for the 2014 election season. Senators with comfortable four-year terms don’t run for re-election until 2016, so their numbers aren’t as politically important.

But the campaign finance reports are important for statewide office seekers. Gov. Sam Brownback had a little more than $500,000 in his campaign account a year ago, and we’ll see Jan. 10 what he raised this year.

Democratic team House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, and runningmate Jill Docking, Wichita, just got into the race for governor this year, so the key will be what they have raised since the fall announcement of their candidacy. Four years ago, the 2010 Democratic candidate, Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, hadn’t gotten into the race yet, and of course had no gubernatorial money on hand, so there isn’t a good comparison there.

But that Jan. 10 report will tell a story for the gubernatorial race ahead. A big number by Davis/Docking? It shows that Kansans with checkbooks are ready for a change ... but just what does that number need to be? That’s the question. Brownback? Figure if he doesn’t have $1 million, he either wasn’t trying very hard or presumes the 2014 election will take care of itself.

Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report. Visit his Web site at www.hawvernews.com

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