By Karen Shanton
Three PACs dedicated to secretary of state (SOS) races – one on the right and two on the left – have launched since early December. This new focus on secretaries of state was driven largely by controversies in elections administration. As issues like voter ID and early voting have taken on an increasingly partisan cast, both parties have taken a greater interest in who gets to administer the elections rules. In many states, responsibility for state-level elections administration falls to the SOS.
But another factor is that SOS elections tend to be less expensive than other statewide races. The below chart, which is based on data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, shows fundraising totals for successful SOS, attorney general (AG) and gubernatorial/gubernatorial slate candidates in the 35 states with an elected SOS. (Alaska, Hawaii and Utah, where elected lieutenant governors serve as SOS, are not included because the lieutenant governor and governor run as a slate for the primary and/or general election in those states.)
Unsurprisingly, gubernatorial candidates were the strongest fundraisers. However, AGs typically outraised the SOS as well – sometimes by a significant margin. For example, Iowa’s AG, Tom Miller, reported raising more than nine times as much in the 2010 election cycle as the state’s SOS, Matt Schultz. Combined, Iowa’s major party general election AG candidates averaged $1,087,301 in contributions that cycle. Their SOS counterparts averaged just $158,712.
Indeed, there are only four states where the SOS outraised the AG in the most recent election cycle: Connecticut, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oregon. And the median SOS raised just $314,529 to the median AG’s $904,418 and the median governor’s $6,772,630.
Money Raised in the Most Recent Election Cycle (in Thousands)
Note: Fundraising totals are for the two-year election cycle. Secretary of state, attorney general and governor elections were last held in 2011 in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi and 2012 in Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. Indiana, North Dakota and Oregon elected an attorney general/governor, governor and attorney general/secretary of state, respectively in 2012. respectively, in 2012. All other elections, except Wyoming attorney general, were in 2010. In Wyoming, the attorney general is appointed by the governor so there are no elections for that office.
Source: National Institute on Money in State Politics
Karen Shanton is a legislative studies specialist and ACLS public fellow at NCSL