Heidi Heitkamp Spent Over $111 Per Vote to Lose by 11 Percentage Points


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp concedes the North Dakota senate race, at an election night event in Fargo, N.D., Nov. 6, 2018. (Hilary Swift/The New York Times)

It is a deep irony that, in an election where North Dakota voters approved an ethics ballot measure supposedly motivated by the desire to get the influence of “big money” out of politics, lame duck Senator Heidi Heitkamp spent more than $100 per vote on her unsuccessful campaign.

According to OpenSecrets.org, through October 17 the Heitkamp campaign had spent $16,019,959.

With 424 of 424 precincts reporting, Heitkamp received 143,737 votes.

That works out to $111.45 per vote, and the number will likely go up. There are still a couple of weeks worth of spending for the Heitkamp campaign to report, but her vote total is what it is.

Heitkamp spent more than triple what Cramer did, by the way. Through October 17 the Senator-elect spent $4,951,051.

His spending-to-vote ratio is $27.67.

It’s fashionable to talk about how money can buy elections, but that doesn’t seem to be the case if we look at the North Dakota Senate race. Or the Texas Senate race, where Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke out-spent Republican incumbent Ted Cruz by tens of millions of dollars. Or the 2016 presidential election which saw Democrat Hillary Clinton out-spend Republican Donald Trump by a roughly 2-1 margin.

Money helps in politics, no doubt, but it’s hardly everything.

If you want to win, you still have to run a competent campaign, and you still have to give voters something they want to vote for.