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Political Notebook

Candidates with money find spending it doesn’t ensure a win

Linda McMahon lost her race on Tuesday though she had contributed hefty sums to her campaign. Linda McMahon lost her race on Tuesday though she had contributed hefty sums to her campaign.
November 4, 2010

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NEW YORK — Wealthy candidates spent more than $500 million of their own money running for office this year. They don’t have much to show for it.

Former Hewlett-Packard Corp. chairwoman Carly Fiorina, former eBay Inc. chief executive Meg Whitman, and World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. cofounder Linda McMahon were among the losers Tuesday. Whitman failed in the California governor’s race despite contributing $141.6 million to her campaign, the largest personal expenditure for a race in US history.

“You can have all the money in the world, but you still have to convince voters you’re the best candidate,’’ said David Levinthal, spokesman for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. “If you’ve struggled to connect with them, your candidacy will struggle.’’

Of the 58 self-funded candidates — defined as those giving at least $500,000 to their campaigns — for federal offices this year, 30 lost in primaries or dropped out, according to data the center compiled. Those self-funded Senate and House candidates spent $158.9 million total.

In Connecticut, McMahon gave her campaign $46.6 million in donations and loans through Oct. 13, according to federal records. Fiorina gave or loaned her campaign more than $5.5 million in the same period.

Wealthy Democrats had as much trouble as Republicans. Billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene lost the primary for a Senate seat in Florida in August after spending $23.7 million of his own money, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Suzan DelBene, a former Microsoft Corp. executive, lost her bid for a congressional seat in Washington state after giving herself $2.28 million.

This year’s losers join Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, and William Randolph Hearst in the ranks of wealthy individuals who have fumbled bids for president, governor, or Congress. Only five of the 20 largest self-funded candidates in federal races over the past two decades won, according to the center.

“If you raise $100,000 in $100 increments, you have 1,000 votes,’’ said Jennifer Steen, an Arizona State University political scientist and the author of a book on self-financed candidates. “If you write yourself a $100,000 check, you only have one vote.’’

— Bloomberg News

Gay rights supporters ousted from office
NEW YORK — Gay rights activists celebrated a few bright spots on Election Day, but they also suffered some major setbacks — including losses by key supporters in Congress and the ouster of three Iowa Supreme Court judges who had ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

On both sides of the marriage debate, the Iowa vote was seen as a signal that judges in other states could face similar punitive challenges.

The congressional results further clouded the prospects for repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy so that gays could serve openly in the military. Democratic leaders, including President Obama, hope for a repeal vote in the Senate during the upcoming lame-duck session.

And leading gay activists acknowledged that the Republican takeover in the House of Representatives probably doomed short-term hopes for major gay rights legislation addressing workplace discrimination and federal recognition of same-sex couples.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the incoming GOP House leadership has a track record of opposing gay rights initiatives.

Among the Democrats who lost on Tuesday were several gay rights supporters, including Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Representative Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, an Iraq war veteran who volunteered to be the House leader of the effort to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.’’

Perhaps most sobering for gay activists was the removal of the three Iowa judges after a campaign intended to punish them for joining a unanimous ruling last year that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated Iowa’s constitution.

That ruling, making Iowa one of five states to legalize gay marriage, still stands.

Justices Marsha Ternus, David Baker, and Michael Streit will be removed at year’s end after about 54 percent of voters backed their ouster — the first time Iowa voters have removed a Supreme Court justice since the current system began in 1962.

The National Organization for Marriage and other gay marriage opponents around the country spent an estimated $1 million on the removal effort, while the three judges chose not to raise money and campaign.

“This spiteful campaign is a wake-up call to future voters who must resist attempts to politicize the courts,’’ said Kevin Cathcart of Lambda Legal, a national gay rights group.

Some gay activists elsewhere had cause for celebration. David Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, was elected as the fourth openly gay member of the US House, joining fellow Democrats Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, and Jared Polis of Colorado, who each won reelection.

— Associated Press

Quayle’s son wins Ariz. House seat

PHOENIX — The son of Dan Quayle, the former vice president, has won his race against a tough Democratic challenger to represent Arizona’s Third Congressional District.

Ben Quayle overcame a series of questions during the campaign about his links to a racy website to claim the Phoenix-area seat of retiring GOP Representative John Shadegg on Tuesday.

Democrat Jon Hulburd, a Phoenix lawyer, made a strong push at upsetting Quayle’s candidacy with a mix of attack ads that questioned the 33-year-old Republican’s experience and maturity.

Quayle stood out during a 10-person primary for a hard-hitting ad where he intoned “Barack Obama is the worst president in history.’’ He also played up his links to Arizona.

— Associated Press

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