Updated Thursday, August 11, 2016. For the most up-to-date figures, click here.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman spent much of his career on Wall Street. But in his unsuccessful bid to become Vermont’s next governor, he didn’t get much of a return on his investment.
Preliminary campaign finance and voting data indicate that Lisman spent more than $113 for every vote he received in Tuesday’s primary.
That figure is likely to grow once Lisman and his fellow candidates report updated fundraising and spending information next week to the Secretary of State’s Office. For now, we know that Lisman spent nearly $1.85 million before July 15 and another $200,000 since on mass media, such as television and mailings. What we don’t know is how much he spent on non-media expenditures — such as payroll — in the nearly four weeks since his last comprehensive report.
Even without that information, we know that Lisman, who largely self-funded his campaign, spent at least $2.05 million to pick up 18,115 votes.
The Shelburne Republican’s campaign manager, Shawn Shouldice, argued Wednesday that such operations are inherently expensive — particularly for a newcomer to politics.
“When Bruce began the campaign nearly a year ago, he was in the low single-digits for name recognition in the state, while facing the formidable task of running against a popular, six-year statewide incumbent,” Shouldice said, referring to Republican rival Phil Scott. “It is costly to build name recognition and to promote public policy ideas. And for perspective, what Bruce spent on this campaign is a small fraction of his philanthropic support to many Vermont causes and organizations over his lifetime.”
Lisman’s dollar-per-vote ratio was far greater than the $48 Democratic candidate Peter Galbraith spent for every vote he received or the $36 fellow Democrat Matt Dunne did.
The two victors in Tuesday’s contests, Scott and Democrat Sue Minter, spent the least per vote: roughly $25 apiece. The Republican spent less money overall than the Democrat ($685,843 to $910,049) but won fewer votes than she did: 27,728 for Scott to 36,046 for Minter.
Again, those figures should all be revised upward next week.
As we reported in this week’s Fair Game, this was the most expensive gubernatorial primary in Vermont history. Even without the final few weeks’ worth of spending information, it’s clear the contest cost more than $4.9 million. And that’s not including the $371,000 several super PACs and Silicon Valley billionaire Reid Hoffman spent seeking to influence the race.
Editor’s note: This story and its headline were updated Thursday after the Secretary of State’s Office released complete vote counts. An earlier version included slightly different dollar-per-vote figures for Minter, Dunne, Scott and Lisman. For the most up-to-date dollar-per-vote figures calculated after final reports were submitted, click here.