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franklin county times

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

By By Sid Salter / syndicated columnist
June 19, 2002
Members of the vice squad of any police department will tell you how a prostitution case works. The key is to get the buyer and seller involved in a conversation about "what" and "how much." The more specific the description of "what," the more solid the case.
Politics is not unlike prostitution, it seems. An analysis by the non-profit National Institute On Money In State Politics showed that the average vote in state politics across America costs about $20.44. The study compared campaign contributions, voter registration and voter participation and the data is pretty straightforward.
For that expenditure of $20.44 per voter, candidates and political parties can expect an average of 36.3 percent of the nation's registered voters to actually get off the couch, go to the polling place and cast a vote.
In Mississippi's last round of statewide elections, including primaries, turnout was an abysmal 25.7 percent of the vote. Based on a study of campaign contributions to the state's gubernatorial and legislative candidates, the per-vote expenditure was $8.29 low by national standards.
Mississippi's Survivor'
Truth be known, the two incumbent Mississippi congressmen seeking to win our state's version of "Survivor" in the November general election would be tickled pink to seek votes in the new 3rd District go for a mere $8.29 per vote. Why? With just the $2.3 million the two had raised last month on the table, the current ante is double that figure at about $17 per vote.
How so? In 1998, the last "off-year" congressional election, about 545,000 Mississippi voters participated in the election. Divide that by the four "new" districts and you come to about 136,500 voters per district. As of the last campaign finance reports, Pickering and Shows had raised $2.3 million in campaign funds between them or about $17 for each anticipated voter. But that was as of the end of April, and the meter is definitely still running as both campaigns continue raising money.
Most expensive race?
How high will it go? With both camps still raising money and with a large influx of so-called "soft" money expected to be dumped into both campaigns by their respective national parties and by special interest groups, the Pickering/Shows showdown is likely to be the most expensive congressional campaign in Mississippi history.
But there is no question that the Pickering/Shows contest will exceed the national average of $20.44 cents per vote. Why? This isn't an "ordinary" congressional race, if there is such an animal. Both Democrats and Republicans alike see it as a race with national implications for control of the House.
With Pickering closely aligned with both Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott and the Bush White House, Democrats see the race as an important battleground. Republicans simply see the seat as a must-win in Mississippi nothing less.
Does money expended translate into a higher turnout? Not at all. North Dakota spent $1.01 per vote and turned out 44.8 percent of the vote. The most expensive votes in the country came in New York at $56.69 per vote with a 36.7 percent turnout.
What will be interesting to watch is the influence of "soft" money on the 3rd District race. Pickering is getting big bucks from Big Business. Shows is getting loads of money from the trial lawyers and labor unions.
One thing's for certain $8.29 a vote won't make a down payment on a victory this time around. "What" is pretty obvious. "How much" is debatable.

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