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SPOTLIGHT
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Politicians: Either pony up or save a pup

Published on -6/18/2012, 9:02 AM

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So -- because this is a year where all 165 members of the Kansas Legislature are up for election -- what's it cost to become a legislator? Probably more than it did two years ago for members of the House and probably more than it did four years ago, the last time senators stood for election.

Here are the numbers:

* In the 2010 election, the winners of House seats spent $2.941 million. That's $23,530 apiece. In the 2008 election cycle, winners spent a total of $2.379 million, or about $19,040 apiece. That's about a 15 percent increase in what it cost to win the seats. Losers? Who cares?

* In the Senate, where the terms are four years, in 2008 the 40 winners spent a total of $1.465 million on their campaigns. That's an average of about $36,625 apiece.

Individually, the most expensive House race cost the winner, Rep. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, $76,276, and the cheapest House race cost the winner, Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, $1,261.

In the Senate, the last time the full chamber stood for re-election the most expensive race in the state cost winner Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, $204,889. Cheapest seat won in the Senate in 2008 cost former Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, $10,523. Barnett later resigned, but the cheapest seat still held by a senator belongs to Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, who spent $10,528 to hammer down his victory.

Seem like a lot of money?

It did then, but remember those 2008 and 2010 campaigns were held before the federal judges shook the earth, creating new districts for candidates to run in.

A handful of districts will have virtually the same voter contingent which had seen the same candidate names on ballots for a decade.

But this election, there are dozens of districts where half or more of the voters in an incumbent's district are brand new, which means candidates have to make a lot of new friends.

That's been the incumbents' advantage for the past decade -- seeking votes from people who have voted for them before and who require less time at the front door. (Or, alternatively, by this time candidates have committed to memory their constituents who will never vote for them, and where they can take a shot, but probably not waste a lot of time.)

So what's that dramatic change in districts going to do to the cost of getting elected? It's going to shoot it up -- unless some lucky candidate pulls a "Lassie."

Lassie? Yes, all it takes is good local news coverage of a candidate pulling a child out of a burning barn, and we're figuring that candidate has won the election.

Figure for the next few weeks, those primary election candidates are going to be raising all the money they can -- about the cost of a fancy Harley-Davidson in House districts, maybe the cost of an entry-level Mercedes for Senate districts -- or hoping for a chance to pull a child out of a burning barn while someone with a fancy camera takes a photo ...

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report. To learn more about this statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.

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