Winning state political offices costly

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2002

During a recent speech to the Brundidge Rotary Club, Secretary of State Jim Bennett warned of the exorbitant costs of campaigning for constitutional office in Alabama.

To run a successful campaign for governor, Bennett said, a candidate must raise $5 million to $7 million; for lieutenant governor, $2 million; and for a seat on the state Supreme Court, $1 million to $2 million.

The reason, he said, is the growth of the two-party system and the need for candidates to campaign beyond the primary season. Toss in a competitive race between those aligned with the trial lawyers or the business interests, and the spending increases exponentially.

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It takes money – big money – to campaign statewide for 10 months or more, and that means serious candidates must be serious about fund-raising.

Financial disclosure reports filed this week by the gubernatorial candidates seem to support Bennett’s theory.

According to the reports, incumbent Gov. Don Siegelman has $4.6 million on hand for his primary campaign. His opposition in the Democratic primary, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bishop, is using a $1 million loan to fund the campaign.

In the Republican primary, U.S. Rep. Bob Riley has approximately $1.3 million remaining in his fund, having spent an additional $1.2 million to date. Lt. Gov. Steve Windom has spent approximately $1.2 million and

has an additional $1.2 million remaining in his fund. Tim James, the Greenville businessman, has spent less than $200,000 so far and has approximately $946,000 remaining for the six-week primary campaign.

If, as some political analysts say, money buys exposure and influence, the incumbent governor has a hard-to-deny lead over his opposition in the fund-raising arena.

The real test will be seeing how far that fund-raising lead carries Siegelman in the primaries and in the general election.  

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