- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 8, 2001

The cost of campaigning has risen around the region, according to state campaign finance reports and leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in Virginia and Maryland.
The importance of cash has reached the point where U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Maryland Republican, says he will not consider challenging Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in a gubernatorial bid next year unless his party raises $2 million within the next few months.
In Virginia, Gov.-elect Mark R. Warner spent almost $20 million including $4.7 million of his own money to win the governor's race, shattering all previous gubernatorial fund-raising records. His Republican opponent, former state Attorney General Mark L. Earley, raised about $11.5 million.
Mr. Warner, who won by 96,943 votes, spent $20.20 a vote.
Campaign spending will continue to rise with each election cycle because of inflation and advertising costs, political researchers say. The bottom line is that candidates will continue to spend what they feel is necessary to get their message out to the voters.
"The structure of the competitive races are changing because the world has changed," said Ed Bender, research director at the National Institute of Money and State Politics.
The trend is not only local, it is nationwide.
The power of money was crystal clear in the congressional races last year, when the majority of candidates with the biggest war chests walked home victorious, according to a campaign spending study by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.
In the Senate races, 85 percent of the candidates who spent the most money were successful at the polls. In the open House races where no incumbents were running, 76 percent of the candidates who won spent the most money, the analysis shows.
The Warner vs. Earley race earned its place in Virginia history as the most expensive ever, as the two major party candidates shelled out an estimated total of $31 million in their quest for office.
The total is about six times more than their counterparts spent in 1981, when Democrat Charles S. Robb and Republican J. Marshall Coleman paid more than $5 million combined.
It's a far cry from the $10,000 state Delegate C. Richard Cranwell, Vinton Democrat, needed to capture his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1975.
But spending the most money doesn't always ensure a victory, observers say.
In 1989, L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat, spent $6.9 million compared with Mr. Coleman's $11 million to win the governor's seat in Virginia.
In 1993, Republican George F. Allen, now a U.S. senator, spent $5.7 million to win the seat, while his opponent, Democrat Mary Sue Terry, spent $6.5 million.
The same holds true in Maryland. In 1998, Democrat Parris N. Glendening spent $6.2 million to win the governor's seat, defeating his opponent, Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who spent $6.4 million.
This year, Mr. Warner raised more money than the 1997 combined Virginia gubernatorial campaigns of Republican James S. Gilmore III and Democrat Donald S. Beyer Jr., which totaled $19.1 million.
However, Virginia's down-ticket races cost a lot less. Lt. Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, raised about $2.8 million to Republican Jay Katzen's $1.4 million. Attorney General-elect Jerry W. Kilgore and his opponent, Democrat A. Donald McEachin, each raised $1.4 million.
High-ranking Republican officials said yesterday they do not believe Mr. Warner's $20 million has set a standard for Virginia or elsewhere. At most, candidates would have to spend between $10 million and $12 million to stay in the race and perhaps win.
"This in no way sets any kind of benchmark for future campaigns," said Ed Matricardi, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia. "This was just an unusual race in that Mark Warner had no record, no political experience so he had to make up for his deficiencies elsewhere."
Mr. Bender of the National Institute of Money and State Politics said he isn't surprised by the millions spent in the Virginia race. "That's not necessarily being out of line when you think about it," he said. "Virginia is in the hub of the political world; $20 million doesn't strike me as too much money for that part of the country."
President Bush spent $25 million to win his second term as governor in Texas in 1998. Govs. Gray Davis of California and George E. Pataki of New York also spent $25 million to win the seats in their states, Mr. Bender said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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