November 14, 2019
Kentucky and Houston Spending Analysis
In the November elections of the 2019 cycle, there was an unusually high volume of spending for down ballot races. Two to highlight are the Kentucky Attorney General race, and the Houston Mayoral race.
Kentucky Attorney General
In the Kentucky Attorney General race, Republican Daniel Cameron earned 58% of the vote over his Democratic opponent, Gregory Stumbo who received 42%. Expenditures in this race by the individual candidates were low, $361,000 for Cameron and $326,000 for Stumbo. The unprecedented total spending in this race of over $4.5 million came mostly from two PAC’s. The Kentucky Freedom Fund, a PAC associated with the Republican Attorneys General Association, pitched in over $2.6 million in support for Cameron. The Democratic Attorneys General Association PAC, DAGA People’s Lawyer Project, allocated $1.1 million for Stumbo. Spending by the two candidates combined accounted for only 15% of the total spending in this election.
Spending was high, as this was an open seat race. The incumbent Attorney General, Andy Beshear, moved on to run for Governor against incumbent Governor Matt Bevin. The Attorney General race was high stakes for Republicans, and Cameron’s victory made history. Cameron is the first African American Attorney General in Kentucky, as well as the first African American to be elected to any statewide office in Kentucky. The Attorney General’s office has not been held by a Republican in Kentucky since 1952, and unsurprisingly Republicans outspent Democrats 2:1.
In an eleven-way general primary race for Houston Mayor, incumbent Sylvester Turner received 47% of the vote, but not enough to allow him to reclaim his position as Mayor. Tony Buzbee, a wealthy trial lawyer turned politician, came in second place with 28% of the vote. Bill King, a former candidate from the 2015 Mayoral election earned 13% of the vote.
Spending and vote share of the other eight candidates was miniscule in comparison to the two front runners. Buzbee and Turner’s spending accounted for 97% of the total spending in the election.
Total spending in this race reached $6.9 million. This was $2.4 million more than the previously discussed statewide Kentucky Attorney General’s race. Houston is a city of 2.3 million people, while the entire state of Kentucky has 4.4 million people.
Although spending was high in this Mayoral election in the fourth most populous city in the nation, not one candidate received at least 50% the vote, forcing a runoff between Buzbee and Turner which will occur on December 14th.