In "Buying" Votes, Some Do Better Than Others

State and federal candidates and their political committees spent more than $175 million during the 2012 election season. While many candidates had little or no general election competitions, others had to spend up to $60 a vote to secure victory in districts with tiny voting populations.

The biggest per-vote spender in a legislative race was House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, who spent $3.2 million and won 50,408 votes, a cost of $63.67 per vote. But Straus had no major party opposition, and $500,000 of his expenditure total was a transfer of funds to his officeholder account, along with other contributions made to Republican candidates in the state. Those contributions technically count as part of campaign spending. His only opponent, Libertarian candidate Arthur M. Thomas IV, spent $1,599.45 and got 12,412 votes.

Among competitive legislative races, Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, who spent $746,000 to defend his seat in HD-43, was the highest per-vote spender. He received 24,059 votes, for $31.04 per vote. Lozano, who switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party this year, faced much stiffer competition than he had in 2010. His Democratic opponent, Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, spent $108,000 for 22,625 votes, or $4.80 per vote.

In the State Senate, the top cost-per-vote total goes to state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who narrowly held off Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth. The $3.5 million Davis spent was nearly three times more than her opponent spent. Davis, who got 147,005 votes, spent $24.37 per vote.

In federal races, candidates spent $120 million, with nearly one-tenth of that from Ted Cruz, who won the U.S. Senate contest. Much of his $11.4 million total was spent during the heated Republican primary battle with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Cruz picked up 4.4 million votes, spending only $2.57 per vote. His Democratic opponent, Paul Sadler, spent $427,000 for 3.1 million votes, or 13 cents per vote.

The close 23rd Congressional District race between U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, R-San Antonio, and state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, was one of the costliest contests, based on dollars per vote.

Canseco spent $1.8 million on the general election and got 87,255 votes, and his cost of $21.33 per vote was the highest of any federal candidate who lost. Gallego, who received 96,477 votes, spent $1.4 million, or $15.19 per vote, the fifth-highest total of a congressional candidate in Texas.

At the efficient end of the spectrum was Steve Stockman, a Republican who claimed the seat in the new 36th Congressional District with the lowest dollar-per-vote expenditure of victorious federal candidates in Texas. He spent $290,579 on 165,388 votes, or $1.76 per vote.

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