It’s no secret that money is a major part of any modern political campaign, but it would be sad to think that a candidate’s ability to raise funds is the only thing that matters when it comes to electing local, state and national leaders.
Kansans were reminded of the role of money in politics during the last week when campaign officials for the two presumed candidates for governor commented on recently filed campaign finance reports.
First came a news release from Lawrence attorney and Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. The campaign filing indicated that the Davis campaign had raised an impressive $1 million during 2013. His campaign treasurer, Bill Kassebaum, proudly announced that Davis “is beginning the election year with more money raised than any gubernatorial challenger in Kansas history.” After expenses, the campaign currently has about $771,000 in cash on hand.
Not surprisingly, David Kensinger, a spokesman for Gov. Sam Brownback had a response to Davis’ news. He noted that the governor had raised $1.6 million in 2013 and had almost $2 million in his campaign account. That is an impressive total, even though it later came out that $500,000 of the 2013 total came in the form of a loan from Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer on the last day of the reporting period. Without that loan, the fundraising race between the two candidates would have been essentially a dead heat.
The two campaigns traded claims about the number of contributors to each candidate, but the bottom line for Kensinger was the amount of cash Brownback had accumulated for the race. “No candidate in state history has overcome a cash deficit this large,” he said.
Nonetheless, it is 11 months until the gubernatorial election, and, as college basketball coaches often say after an upset victory, “that’s why we play the game.”
Davis’ fundraising report is important because it shows that, like Brownback, many donors are taking his candidacy seriously and that Kansas likely will have a competitive governor’s race this year. That’s good for Kansas because a race that includes two strong candidates encourages serious discussions about issues facing the state. Candidates’ positions on those issues — not the amount of money they can raise — should decide the election.
As noted at the outset, money has become an important factor of U.S. politics, at local, state and national levels, but voters should be a little offended at the implication that it is the sole deciding factor in any race. It would be great if Kansas voters take that as a challenge to educate themselves about the issues in the governor’s race and cast their votes on the basis of the knowledge they gain.