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Now that the ISD 197 school board election is over and campaign finance reports are in, we can look at how much candidates spend on this election.
Here’s how much each candidate spent:
For a little bit of context, we also went back to the last contested school board election in 2015 to see what candidates spent:
Diving Into the Numbers
Here are a few stats and observations about this year’s spending:
- Total spending: $11,699 in 2021, compared to $8,840 in 2015.
- Average amount spent: $1,170 in 2021, compared to $982 in 2015.
- Incumbent advantage: Conventional wisdom holds that incumbents have an inherent advantage. That appears true in 2015 where all three incumbents won, two of them without spending anything. But it’s less true in 2021, where one incumbent won and one lost, but both spent about the same. (Note on incumbent spending: They are often able to spend less by re-using campaign material from previous runs. For example, John Chandler didn’t report any spending on signs in 2021, but he did have signs, likely leftover from previous runs.)
- Does money win: Another typical question is if spending more means winning more. In 2021, the two candidates who spent the most won. But money isn’t always the biggest factor. In both 2015 and 2021, the candidate who spent the most didn’t get the most votes (while Brian McDougall finished sixth in 2015, missing out on a seat by two spots, Jon Vaupel finished third in 2021 and won a seat). Incumbency likely plays a part as well, with big incumbent wins in 2015 and Marcus Hill managed to spend less than others and still win in 2021. While spending more money doesn’t guarantee a win, for non-incumbents, they have to spend enough to compete.
- Vote Yes: The Vote Yes campaign supporting the levy renewal spent $1,391. They had more than $7,000 leftover from the previous election and with new donations have nearly $8,400 in cash on hand for the next election. There was no organized vote no campaign that we’re aware of.
- Our analysis of campaign spending in the ISD 197 school board election is based on public campaign finance reports. We’re limited to what candidates actually report. Also, these reports can be confusing for everyone, so it’s possible we’ve confused some of the numbers.
- Candidates are not required to report spending less than $750, so in cases where we list $0, candidates could have spent up to $750.
- Some candidates filed incomplete reports. Stephanie Auran and Robert Reese both failed to file the certificate of filing, which affirms they’ve filed all required paperwork. Reese reported through November 5, so he’s likely reported everything but just didn’t do the certificate of filing. Auran only reported through October 6, so it’s unclear if she didn’t have contributions/expenses after that date or if she just didn’t do the certificate of filing. Likewise, 2015 reports don’t include a certificate of filing for Stephen Hoffman and Anthony Remmick.
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