As candidates began announcing campaigns for state legislative seats across the state, the Amarillo Pioneer has done some research to find out how much it costs for a challenger to unseat an incumbent legislator.
An important factor to note is that a variety of other variables may also be at work in an election. If an incumbent is highly unpopular in his or her district, not as much funding may be needed. Also, if a candidate is a former elected official or a popular local personality, name recognition will not be quite as large of an issue.
With this in mind, two races are currently being contested for state legislative seats in our area. Representative Four Price (R-District 87) has drawn a Republican challenger in Fritch city manager Drew Brassfield. State Senator Kel Seliger (R-District 31) has drawn an opponent in former Midland Mayor Mike Canon. Canon previously ran against Seliger in 2014 and nearly toppled the long-time incumbent.
Representative John Smithee (R-District 86) has not drawn any challengers for this cycle, thus far.
Looking back at 2016's election numbers, no representatives were defeated in primary races. Five representatives were defeated in the general elections within their districts and nearly every losing incumbent was outspent by a large margin, with the exception of one district.
In District 107, Democratic challenger Victoria Neave defeated Republican incumbent Kenneth Sheets, by about 800 votes. Neave spent $288,794.67 on her campaign while the incumbent Sheets spent $584,844.71. This was the only race in 2016 in which an incumbent was defeated after spending more on their campaign than the challenger.
In District 117, Democrat Philip Cortez spent $134,512.73, outspending the Republican incumbent Rick Galindo. Galindo spent $114,295.10 or about $4.12 per vote. Cortez spent about $4.59 per vote.
In District 118, Carlos Uresti outspent incumbent John Lujan. Uresti spent $78,833.86 on his campaign, while Lujan spent $59,824.65 on his campaign. This totals to abouyt $3.08 per vote for Uresti and $2.87 for Lujan.
In perhaps the most lopsided spending victory in the 2016 campaign, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, a Democrat, triumphed over the independent incumbent Laura Thompson. Gervin-Hawkins spent $31,552.51 or about $1 per vote, while Thompson spent $98.42 or about $0.01 per vote.
And finally, in District 144, Mary Ann Perez, Democrat, defeated Republican incumbent Gilbert Pena. Perez spent $142,245.80 on her campaign, or about $8.25 per vote. Pena spent $31,686 or about $2.95 per vote.
Based upon these numbers, those looking to unseat incumbents will have to raise large sums of funding to be successful. Representative Four Price, who has drawn a challenger, currently has $529,250.98 on hand with no primary challenger in sight. Smithee also boasts and impressive $311,482.38.
No financial reporting has been issued for Brassfield.
Interested candidates for state representative or senator have until December 11th to file for a place on the ballot.