Politics of change: A WAFF 48 special report

By Monica Rix - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - One of the highest profile races of is election season is the 5th district congressional race. Republican Mo Brooks and Democrat Steve Raby are both running for Congress. They've spent at least a year making sure voters know who they are and what they stand for.

It takes a lot of cash to get their campaign message out, so we talked to the candidates and political scientists about the money it takes to win your vote.

[Click here to see Alabama campaign finance information]

"There is a correlation between candidates who spend large amounts of money and winning. I wouldn't say money always means you will win, but it gives you a great advantage on the competition," said political expert, Waymon Burke.

Burke says candidates need to be in constant fundraising mode, saying candidates typically need to raise about $19,000 a day to win a congressional election.

In 2008, both Parker Griffith and Wayne Parker spent more than a million dollars on their campaigns. Republican party leaders say Griffith outspent Parker by more than $500,000 and won.

Big bucks have already poured into this year's 5th district congressional race. Even the primary got pricey, especially on the Republican side.

"There were two other gentlemen running in the Republican primary. We were outspent $1.9 million to $160,000 , yet we were able to prevail without a runoff. Quite frankly, people in Washington were shocked by that outcome. They're so used to money determining the outcome of every race," said Republican candidate, Mo Brooks.

Individual contributors are a huge factor in fundraising for federal campaigns and the two candidates running for the 5th district seat know how important they are.

Supporters send them checks every day, not to mention PACs, or political action committees. These are groups of individuals who form an organization, pool their money together and support their candidate.

"We've got a lot of small contributors and that is what's very, very encouraging," said Democratic hopeful, Steve Raby.

"You never know how much it takes to win until the race is over with," added Brooks.

Burke says U.S. Senate candidates raise an average of about $8.5 million over two years to win an election. That's about $39,000 a day, including holidays and weekends.

Senator Jeff Sessions didn't raise quite that much for his Senate win, but says he's collected more than $5.1 million for his campaigns. He credits his supporters.

"This is a sign not only of financial strength, but of political strength. If people don't believe in you, they won't send you money," he said.

Although neither 5th district congressional candidate will reveal exactly how much they've spent so far, both Raby and Brooks say they spent more last month than any other month leading up to the general election. They each spent between $75,000 and 100,000 a week on their campaigns, with the bulk of those funds going to advertising.

Advertising for a campaign can get expensive. For example, just think of all the campaign signs you see around town. Every one of the small signs costs about $2 to $3 to print. Every candidate agrees that the priciest ad is on the small screen.

"A candidate who does not have television coverage is almost non-existent to the voter," said Burke.

"You need to have a television presence and that costs a lot of money in a state like Alabama," said Senator Sessions.

Last month alone, more than $3 million was spent on political television advertisements.

In the end, both Raby and Brooks hope what every candidate hopes during election season - that it's enough to get your vote.

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