Republican candidates may have the upper hand throughout most of the country’s reddest state, but in Teton County they have to open their wallets wide.
That seems to be the takeaway from this year’s campaign finance reports, at least when it comes to the Wyoming Legislature. Republican candidates consistently raised and spent more money than their Democratic rivals, yet none of them won.
James King, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming, said that shows money isn’t everything in elections.
“It’s not going to make a Republican the winner in a Democratic constituency,” he said. “The general leaning of the constituency is much more important than what the candidate spends.”
Especially in the year of the “blue wave,” party affiliation was the common theme among election winners.
Democrats conquered Nov. 6, preserving the two seats already held by their party and snagging the other two previously held by Republicans. One third of the Democrats in the Wyoming Legislature are now from Teton County.
And, financially speaking, they didn’t have to try as hard to win. In every race the Republicans spent nearly twice as much as the Democrats, and in one case nearly three times as much.
In the race for House District 23 Republican Alex Muromcew — who received fewer than 2,000 votes to Democratic incumbent Andy Schwartz’s roughly 3,350 — spent more than $9 per vote. Schwartz paid just under $3.50, making him the most fiscally efficient vote-getter.
Next in line was the other well-known Democrat, Mike Gierau, who is currently the House District 16 representative. He ran for Senate District 17 and drew nearly double the votes of his opponent, Kate Mead, while spending about $3.70 for each. Mead has not yet filed her final campaign finance report, but as of Oct. 23 she had spent about $11,600.
In what may be the priciest race for state Legislature, House District 23, independent Jim Roscoe and Republican incumbent Marti Halverson spent a combined $36,400. Halverson’s portion was just over $20,500 to Roscoe’s approximately $15,900, but despite her financial advantage she trailed by more than 500 votes. She spent the most per vote of any race, about $10.30.
The clearest trace of the “blue wave” in Teton County came from House District 16, where Mike Yin, a young, comparatively unknown Democrat, defeated former Republican county commissioner Barbara Allen. Despite Allen’s status and familiarity in the community, Yin garnered more than 2,500 votes to her 1,700, spending about $4.80 per vote. In contrast, Allen spent about $8.70.
Altogether Teton County candidates spent nearly $130,000 on state Legislature races.