Sunday, September 09, 2018

Guest Post: Dr. Klumpp reports on record spending in 2018 judicial primary

by Albert J. Klumpp

After the March primary election I provided FWIW with an analysis of the results of Cook County’s judicial contests. At that time I did not have data on campaign spending by the candidates, since the required quarterly spending reports covering the first and second quarters of the year were not yet due at the state elections office.

Those reports are now on file and I have compiled total spending numbers for all 110 candidates. While I won’t be rerunning the full statistical analysis for some time yet, there was some interest expressed here in seeing the spending numbers, so here is a brief summary:

The candidates spent a total of $7,966,104. The average per candidate of $72,419 sets a new record high for a single year, well ahead of 2014’s $62,605. On a per-vacancy basis the average for each of the 39 vacancies was $204,259; this figure is second only to the 2004 average of $245,688. (In 2004, though, there were only eighteen vacancies, an abnormally low number that resulted in the number of candidates per vacancy being higher than usual. So the comparison is not a good one.)

The 26 countywide candidates spent an average of $79,398, surpassing the previous highest figure (in 2008) by more than ten percent. Analysis has shown that the impact of campaign spending on vote percentages in countywide judicial contests is almost negligible, yet spending by countywide candidates has continued to increase over the years.

The 84 subcircuit candidates spent an average of $70,259, surpassing the previous high (in 2004) likewise by more than ten percent. What stands out most about this figure is that it was not driven by the wealthier and traditionally more competitive subcircuits in the outer and northern suburbs and North Side, but rather reflects unprecented spending elsewhere. For instance:
  • In the 2nd Subcircuit the previous high for total spending was roughly $156,000. This year it exceeded $700,000. In part this was because the numbers of vacancies and candidates--six and thirteen, respectively--were much higher than usual, but even in terms of averages the amount is the highest ever.
  • Candidates in the 5th Subcircuit spent more than $516,000, more than double the previous high.
  • In the 6th Subcircuit, eight candidates pursuing three vacancies spent more than $1 million. This was more than 2½ times the previous high.
The ten highest spending individual candidates overall were:

Candidate Race Campaign Spending
James "Jaime" Shapiro 8th Subc. $491,127
Jack Hagerty Countywide $413,053
Michael B. Barrett 15th Subc. $308,078
Tom Sam Sianis Countywide $240,811
Kent Delgado 6th Subc. $228,353
Oran F. Whiting Countywide $220,667
Robert Harris 5th Subc. $190,859
Susanne Groebner 13th Subc. $185,458
Sean Patrick Kelly 6th Subc. $179,617
Robin Denise Shoffner 8th Subc. $179,285

The Shapiro total is a new record high for a Circuit Court candidate, surpassing the $419,051 spent by Megan Goldish in 2014, and is the twelfth-highest figure for any judicial primary campaign in Cook County since 1980 (where my data set begins).

Finally, some fine print: All of the above figures include in-kind contributions that are equivalent to actual expenditures; they exclude irrelevant items such as post-election parties and charitable donations, ISBE civil fines, and accounting adjustments such as loan repayments that the ISBE requires be classified as expenditures. The intent is to include only those amounts that are spent directly on the effort to attract votes. All pre-2018 figures are adjusted for inflation to allow for direct comparisons.

Albert J. Klumpp has been a generous and frequent contributor to this blog over the years. A research analyst with a public policy PhD, Klumpp is the author of several scholarly works analyzing judicial elections including, most recently, Alaska’s Judicial Retention Elections: A Comparative Analysis, 34 Alaska Law Review 143-160 (2017). Other works include Judicial Primary Elections in Cook County, Illinois: Fear the Irish Women!, 60 DePaul L. Rev. 821 (2011); "Voter Information and Judicial Retention Elections in Illinois," 94 Ill. B.J. 538 (October 2006); and "Cook County Judicial Elections: Partisanship, Campaign Spending, & Voter Information," CBA Record, January 2007 (p. 34).


Anonymous said...

It would be nice to see a graph or spreadsheet of by judicial race showing total amount spent, total amount self-funded, votes received, slated, endorsed, etc.

Did spending play a bigger factor in the subcircuits? Of the 10 biggest spenders, who won?

Anonymous said...

Klumpp's posts are always excellent. I do agree that a graph would help.

Why is there such a small difference between average subcircuit spending ($70k) versus average countywide spending ($79k)? Presumably, a dollar will go much farther in a subcircuit race than in a countywide race. Wouldn't it make more sense for a candidate in a countywide race to either spend zero or a very high amount (e.g., $200k+) and not in-between?

Albert said...

1. Six of the top ten won, and two of the other four (Kelly and Shofner) lost to two of the six winners (Delgado and Shapiro). Whiting lost countywide to an Irish-named woman, and Groebner's subcircuit opponent spent roughly $126k himself.

2. I've measured spending as having a MUCH greater impact on subcircuit contests. In recent years it seems to be at least ten times as effective, maybe more. (It's difficult give an accurate ratio because the effect on countywide contests is so tiny.) Yes it makes much more sense to put money into subcircuit contests.

3. Part of the countywide average is the $40k that the slated candidates have to give their party. It adds considerably to the average because there are fewer candidates per contest these days so a higher proportion are slated.

4. Thanks for the compliment...In primaries it's difficult to create effective visuals because there are so many contests and categories of information. But I'll see what I can do.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Albert - is the effect of subcircuit spending versus countywide spending directly correlated to the size of the electorate? That is, since a subcircuit is 1/15 as large, the effect of subcircuit spending should be around 15 times greater (or somewhere around there)?

Albert said...

That would make sense...unfortunately there are just too many variables and too little data, and the countywide effect is too small, to be able to pin that ratio down with mathematical precision. There are plus-or-minus ranges to these estimates and it's important not to claim too much accuracy where it isn't justified.
But that number isn't inconsistent with what the analysis shows, I can at least say that much.