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Campaign spending hit ‘crazy’ levels in 27A race

Expenses surpassed $377,000 in 10 months

More than $377,000 in independent expenditures were reported for the two major party candidates for House District 27A in the 10 months leading up to the election.

But the question remains, what effect did these campaign dollars have on the outcome of the race?

Shannon Savick

Shannon Savick

In the days leading up to the election, residents received dozens of political fliers in the mail for or against candidates Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, and Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells. On the Internet, there were videos for and against the candidates.

“It’s a crazy amount of money,” said Bennett, who ultimately defeated Savick by more than 1,800 votes. “I’d love to say I wish people wouldn’t spend as much money on that and give it to needy people or whatever, but I know it’s the nature of the beast.”

Out of the combined $377,000 reported for independent expenditures over $100, about $176,000 of that went to support Savick, according to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Slightly over $200,000 supported Bennett.

Some of the largest spenders in the District 27A race were Pro Jobs Majority, an independent expenditure committee affiliated with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, along with the Alliance for a Better Minnesota Action Fund, the Minnesota DFL State Central Committee and the Republican Party of Minnesota, according to reports.

Pro Jobs Majority alone spent almost $103,000 either for Bennett or against Savick.

The Alliance for a Better Minnesota fund spent more than $47,000 against Bennett, while the Minnesota DFL State Central Committee spent more than $75,000 either against Bennett or in favor of Savick, reports stated.

Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

Bennett said the candidates had no say in what these organizations put into their advertisements and she thinks they drowned out the messages of the candidates themselves.

She said she sent out campaign fliers that she thinks ended up getting thrown away with all of the other fliers from the third-party organizations.

Savick said she heard from some people who were sick of getting fliers, but she is unsure how they affected the election.

One of the fliers she was particularly upset with claimed she was against Social Security.

“I am on Social Security, so why would I cut it?” the state representative said. “It’s a federal program, so I have no way of cutting it even if I wanted to.”

Bennett pointed to outside dollars also coming into her opponent’s personal campaign fund. She said more than 70 percent of Savick’s campaign funds were from outside of the district, many even from outside of the state.

Savick said she received many contributions from outside of the state because of her support for Minnesota’s same-sex marriage law, but she noted she still received many smaller donations from people within the state and district.

Bennett said in her own campaign, 89 percent of her contributors were from within the district.

“I thought that was interesting,” she said. “To me, the people of our district should be the ones who influence it the most.”

The candidates spent roughly the same amount out of their raised funds: $45,000.

Savick said she thinks one of the big factors in the election was that people didn’t vote. According to the Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office, almost 4,300 more people voted in 2012 when Savick was elected — when they could also vote for president — than in 2014 during what is often called a “mid-term” election.

She said she is not upset about losing the election and is honored to have served as a representative for two years.

“That’s a great honor that very few people get,” she said. “I want to thank everybody for voting.”