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NOVEMBER 4, 1998   12:4 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Center for Responsive Politics
Larry Makinson or Paul Hendrie (202) 857-0044
 
Money and Incumbency Win Big on Election Day; Top Spenders Win 94 Percent of Senate Races, 95 Percent of House Races
 
WASHINGTON - November 4 - While voters confounded the pollsters and pundits in Tuesday's congressional elections, money and incumbency were
both huge winners, according to a post-election analysis by the non-partisan Center for Responsive
Politics.

In 93.9 percent of Senate races (with the Nevada outcome still in doubt), and 94.9 percent of U.S. House races, the candidate who spent the most was successful at the polls on Tuesday.

Incumbents were by far the biggest winners and the biggest spenders. Not counting the Nevada Senate race, incumbent U.S. Senators enjoyed a reelection rate of 89.7 percent. If Democratic incumbent Harry Reid wins in Nevada, the rate will rise to 90.0 percent; if he loses it will fall to 86.7 percent.

In the House of Representatives, only six incumbents out of 401 lost at the polls on Tuesday. One additional incumbent, Republican Jay Kim of California, lost earlier this year in his party's primary. Including Kim, the House reelection rate was 98.3 percent - the highest rate since 1988 and one of the highest this century.

Many of the races - particularly in the House - were financial blowouts. More than 60 percent of House districts saw one candidate outspending the other by a margin of 10-to-1 or more. None of those candidates were successful on Election Day. The winner with the biggest financial disadvantage was incumbent Republican Heather Wilson of New Mexico. Her Democratic challenger, Philip Maloof, outspent her nearly 4-to-1, with a $2.7 million campaign through September 30. Wilson won by about 5,000 votes.

Most of the other races that saw the top-spender losing were much closer financially. Twenty-two of the 25 races where top spenders lost were contests where neither candidate had more than a 2-1 edge over the other. Two others were slightly more than two-to-one. Figures in most cases were based on reports filed with the Federal Election Commission through October 14.

Two of the three Senate incumbents who lost Tuesday outspent their challengers. The exception was Peter Fitzgerald in Illinois, who spent $12.4 million to incumbent Carol Moseley-Braun's $8 million. Among the six House incumbents defeated Tuesday, three were outspent by their challengers and three were not.

Ironically, the biggest overall spender in the 1998 elections - New York Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato - went down to defeat, despite his $22.6 million campaign.

Perhaps the worst return on investment in Tuesday's elections came in upstate New York, where anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, running as the nominee of the Right-to-Life party, spent nearly $1.1 million trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Maurice Hinchey. Terry finished a distant third in the race, capturing fewer than 12,000 votes - just 7 percent of the overall tally.

The least expensive victory on Tuesday was in New York's 6th Congressional District, where Democrat Gregory Meeks reported spending just $8,429 through October 14. Meeks was unopposed.

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