$100 per vote. The cost to campaign for Rep.Darrell Issa's open seat was one of the highest in the country.

Candidates and political committees spent nearly $16 million while running for California’s 49th District, a whopping price tag driven by the costs of campaigning for a seat that straddles two of the country’s most expensive media markets.

At least $15.83 million was spent in the primary to succeed Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, a figure that includes financial data through May 16 will certainly grow after candidates and outside committees publicly report what they put into the race in the final weeks before polls opened on June 5.

According to OpenSecrets.org, a website that tracks and compiles political spending across the country, this was the nation’s second-most expensive race in the midterm season so far, with only the campaign for Montana’s sole House seat costing more.

In all, the 16 candidates and outside political groups spent just under $100 for each of the 161,699 votes cast. The cost per vote will drop over time, as some outstanding ballots are still being counted.

“The amount of money spent – and wasted – was staggering. We were careful in our targeting and projections and are very happy with the result,” said David Gilliard, the campaign consultant for Board of Equalization Member Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, who finished first in the primary.

Inland, where Rep. Duncan Hunter ran for re-election in the 50th District, campaign and political organizations spent a much more modest $2.55 million. Unlike the neighboring 49th, nearly all of the money in the 50th came directly from the campaigns rather than from political action committees.

While the 49th was an expensive race, money by no means determined a win. The two best-funded candidates failed to finish in the top two and advance to the general election.

Some $4.23 million was spent supporting Democrat Sara Jacobs, a former non-profit executive who finished third. Outside political groups put $2.42 million behind her, while Jacobs, the granddaughter of Qualcomm’s billionaire co-founder Irwin Jacobs, put $2.1 million of her own money into the race. Irwin Jacobs gave $1.25 million to a super-PAC that, in turn, spent $2.36 million on Sara Jacobs’ candidacy. She received 15.9 percent of the electorate at a cost about $164.67 for every vote, a price-tag second only to Democrat Paul Kerr.

Kerr, a real estate magnate who ran an almost entirely self-financed campaign, spent just over $4 million to finish seventh in the top-two primary, with a total of 7,012 votes or about $549.61 spent per supporter. Between contributions and loans from his own pocket, he put $5.11 million into his candidacy and received 4.6 percent of the vote. While a large amount of money, it’s not record-setting; Kathaleen Wall, a Republican running for a seat in Texas, put $6.02 million of her own money into her campaign.

Harkey, the frontrunner, raised about $537,000 for her own campaign, including $100,000 she loaned from her own resources. Another organization, the conservative American Future Fund Political Action Committee, spent about $756,000 backing her candidacy. In all, it cost $28.89 for every vote cast in her favor, putting her in the middle of the pack of the five major GOP candidates by cost. She received 25.4 percent of the vote.

The runner-up, Democrat Mike Levin of San Juan Capistrano, spent about $1.45 million and received another $271,674 in outside support. Nearly all of the external money came from Bill Bloomfield, a major California donor who gives to candidates on both sides of the aisle and a long-time friend of Levin’s. In all, it cost about $64.77 per vote cast in Levin’s favor, making his campaign the second most-efficient of the four Democrats running. He received 17.5 percent of the vote.

“We were careful in our targeting and projections and are very happy with the result,” Gilliard said. He added that he expects the general election to be one of the most expensive in the country, and said he’s confident that Harkey can raise enough money needed for a strong and complete campaign.

Spending in the 50th District between the three Democrats, three Republicans and one independent running was much more meager, costing about $18.75 per vote. Besides $950 spent against Hunter, there was no outside spending.

In the 50th, Hunter’s campaign spent $1.17 million, including over $600,000 in legal services and fees related to a campaign finance scandal. In all, it cost Hunter about $20.84 per vote, a figure that would have been about half as much if it weren’t for the legal expenses. He placed first with a commanding 47.7 percent of the vote.

Gilliard, who is also a consultant for Hunter, said that campaign money won’t be any sort of problem for his re-election campaign.

“Based on the numbers from the primary I doubt national Democrats will invest heavily in [District] 50. Yes I believe Duncan will be able to raise the money we need to meet the budget and get his message out,” Gilliard said.

The runner-up, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar of Jamul, spent $643,627. It cost about $32.38 per vote. He sat in second with 17.5 percent of the vote, about a 4.6 percentage point advantage over El Cajon Mayor Bill wells, a Republican in third place.

Wells entered the race late and spent $36,633, or about $2.25 per vote. In an indication of how far to the right the district leans, Wells received seven votes more than Democrat Josh Butner who spent $485,496, or about $32.51 per vote.

The outcome shows that a dollar stretches a lot further for Republican candidates in one of the most conservative districts in California. Facing an uphill financial battle, Campa-Najjar said support beyond what he can raise on his own for his campaign will be crucial for him to win.

He said he has spoken with some deep pockets, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as well as Tom Steyer, a billionaire who spends heavily on progressive causes. He said he’s also planning to speak with Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md, a member of Democratic party leadership and the longest-serving member of that party in the House.

“This is a seat that folks in Washington want to see flipped,” Campa-Najjar said. “And my case to them is that this is the first time the Hunter name has gotten more votes against him than for him, and an indictment can happen any day. And that would change the course of the race and we need to be ready before that happens.”

A full financial picture is not yet available since campaigns have only publicly reported how much they have spent through May 16. A more complete account is expected in campaign finance reports that are due to the Federal Election Commission on July 15.

An analysis by OpenSecrets of the 2016 election cycle found that an average of $1.5 million was spent on winning House candidates, with about $1.3 million of that money coming from the campaign itself, while the rest is spent by outside groups. An analysis by the Brookings Institution, however, found that the average House winner in 2012 spent $1.6 million.

Twitter: @jptstewart

joshua.stewart@sduniontribune.com

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