by Jim Stirling
Research Fellow, John Locke Foundation
I’ve made it a point to follow the money this election cycle, tracking much of the funding that came into North Carolina to impact our elections. When looking at the viability of any given candidate for office, one of the first questions asked is, “Can they raise enough money to compete?” With roughly $314 million in advertisement coming into North Carolina, it is easy for some to say that their election could have gone a different way with just a bit of investment. While fundraising is a core component of any election and can be used as a measure of support for a candidate, it is not the only component in elections.
Election results are determined by several things, such as candidate quality, current issues, the name recognition of candidates, and the location where they are running, to name a few. North Carolina saw several candidates this year display these factors in their election, particularly in the state House and judiciary elections.
In the North Carolina House, eleven Republican victors were outraised by their opponents. Several of these races were heavily contested, as they were the most likely elections to determine a House supermajority. Five House Democrats also came out the victors on Tuesday after having been outspent by their Republican opponents. Three were in of Wake County, with the others being from Buncombe and Mecklenburg counties.
Only two Republican statewide judges outraised their opponents, although all six won their elections. While Donna Stroud and Michael Stading outraised their opponents, they were also the only two appeals court judges with primary opponents.
In the Senate, only one Republican won their election while being outraised by their opponent. Carl Ford was outraised and outspent by Tangela (Lucy Horne) Morgan, for the Senate seat representing Stanley and Rowan Counties. A complete list of all House, Senate, and statewide Judicial victors that were outraised, yet won their election can be found here.
Fundraising can be an excellent tool for determining if a candidate has support. Historically, if a candidate outraises their opponent, they likely have more support for them in their district. With the growing amount of out-of-state fundraising, this may not always be the case. However, it is still good to remember that elections are about more than money. Issues and the candidates themselves determine who comes out the victor in elections. Nothing shows that better than the judicial races this year, where most victors were outraised and outspent in their elections but still carried their statewide elections.