Governor-elect Nixon breaks Missouri fundraising record

Thursday, December 4, 2008 | 8:18 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Democratic Gov.-elect Jay Nixon shattered Missouri's gubernatorial fundraising record en route to his Election Day rout of Republican Rep. Kenny Hulshof.

Nixon, the attorney general, raised $17.3 million during his multiyear gubernatorial campaign — doubling Hulshof's $8.5 million, according to an Associated Press analysis of finance reports filed Thursday and in past months.

Nixon's dollar dominance was so strong that he gave away $260,000 to help other Democrats in the final days before the Nov. 4 election while simultaneously flooding the airwaves with his own ads. By contrast, Hulshof, the U.S. congressman from northeast Missouri, had to sharply scale back his TV ads several weeks before the election as he started to run out of cash.

Whereas Hulshof spent essentially every penny, Nixon still had $357,590 in his campaign account as of Nov. 29.

The election was a landslide victory for Nixon, who took 58.4 percent of the vote to Hulshof's 39.5 percent.

Nixon had several factors working toward his advantage.

First, he began his gubernatorial campaign three years before the election, when it appeared as though he would be challenging Republican Gov. Matt Blunt. Second, Nixon consolidated Democrats behind his candidacy early, allowing him to tap the full pool of Democratic donors without worrying about a primary contest.

Hulshof didn't enter the gubernatorial race until Blunt unexpectedly exited it in January. Then Hulshof had to compete for Republican money in a tough primary against Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

It was Hulshof's first statewide run, putting him at a distinct name-recognition disadvantage to Nixon, making his seventh statewide race. Although he opposed the Aug. 28 repeal of campaign contribution limits, Nixon nonetheless joined Hulshof in benefiting financially from it.

Also aiding Nixon was general voter discontent, which made for a poor year for Republicans and Washington politicians.

"The environment gave us a structural problem," said Hulshof campaign manager John Hancock. "The money differential exacerbated that problem and created the margin of victory that ensued."

Nixon's fundraising shattered the previous high mark of $11.6 million for a Missouri gubernatorial campaign, set by Democrat Claire McCaskill in her 2004 loss to Blunt.

"It's reflective of the broad base of support that he had in this campaign," said Nixon campaign manager Ken Morley. In addition to the fact that "he raised more than any other candidate in Missouri, he also won in places where no Democrat has ever won in a long time."

Nixon carried 54 counties that Blunt had won in 2004, Morley said.

When Nixon's and Hulshof's dollars are combined with the $2.5 million raised by Steelman in the primary, Missouri's gubernatorial candidates raised a total of about $28 million in the 2008 elections.

The three candidates in the 2004 gubernatorial election — Blunt, McCaskill and Gov. Bob Holden, who lost in the Democratic primary — also raised a total of about $28 million.

Missouri's most expensive campaign was run on behalf of a ballot measure, not a candidate. In 2006, the group backing a constitutional amendment protecting stem cell research spent about $30 million. Nearly all of that money came from James and Virginia Stowers, cancer survivors who founded the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, which conducts stem cell research.

This year's most expensive ballot issue attracted half that much. The group backing a successful initiative repealing Missouri's unique loss limits for casino gamblers raised a total of $15.3 million through Dec. 2. The initiative, which also increased casino taxes, directed the new state tax revenues to public schools.

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