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Candidates spent less in 2018

January 16, 2019

You might have been frustrated last fall with all of those mailers in the local state representative race stuffing your mailbox.

But you can take heart — spending in the Kankakee County-based 79th District actually dropped for the first time in a decade. By a lot.

In the 2018 election, the two candidates, Republican Lindsay Parkhurst and Democrat Lisa Dugan, spent a combined $1.7 million, according to final numbers released over the last few days.

That’s less than half what was spent in the 2016 election — a whopping $5.5 million, according to state Board of Elections reports. That kind of money could pay for the Kankakee police to operate for more than six months.

In 2016, Parkhurst, a Kankakee lawyer, took the 79th seat away from the Democrats, who had held it for years. She won with 54 percent of the vote and upped her percentage to 56 percent last November.

Many state representative races around Illinois draw relatively little political money, with one party seen as having the edge and the other left to running token candidates, if any at all.

In the 79th District, the two major political parties have spent millions because they see it as competitive, although Parkhurst’s comfortable victory might have dashed Democratic hopes for the time being.

In the last go-around, Dugan’s campaign raised about $900,000 to Parkhurst’s more than $750,000.

But the total amount of $1.7 million was less than the amount spent in 2014 — a little more than $2 million, when then-state Rep. Kate Cloonen won re-election over Republican Glenn Nixon by a razor-thin margin.

In 2012, Cloonen and Nixon spent a combined $1 million. In both races, Cloonen prevailed by only about 100 votes.

Dugan, who served as state representative from 2003 to 2013, had no opponent in 2008, but faced Republican Nick Been in 2010. Combined, the candidates spent about $650,000.

With the exception of 2012, the Democrats have outspent the Republicans in the 79th District throughout the last decade.

As is the case elsewhere, little of the money for the state representative candidates comes from local contributors.

In the last race, Parkhurst collected $33,000 from in-district businesses, organizations and individuals. That made up just 4.3 percent of her donations.

Dugan recorded $12,743 in local contributions, or 1.4 percent. During her campaign, Dugan argued such statistics are misleading because her union contributors may be based elsewhere but have local members.

At the end of the last quarter, both Dugan and Parkhurst had about $45,000 remaining in their campaign accounts.

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