New Orleans mayoral candidate Frank Scurlock, the eccentric entrepreneur who helped amass a family fortune estimated to be worth more than $100 million, did not win yesterday’s primary election. He wasn’t even close. But Frank Scurlock still managed to make Louisiana history, spending a grand total of $345,206.33, almost entirely money he lent his campaign, and garnering an abysmal 385 votes (0.47%).
Put another way, Scurlock spent an astronomical $920 per voter, shattering the previous record of $196 per voter set by John Georges during his 2010 campaign for New Orleans mayor. (Georges can still lay claim to another state record, however. In 2007, he spent approximately $64 per voter in his bid for governor, more than any other gubernatorial candidate in the country that year and still more than any gubernatorial candidate in Louisiana).
For context, earlier this year, the special election for Georgia’s 6th district became the most expensive congressional election in American history. Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate who was ultimately defeated, spent approximately $65 per primary voter. According to a report by the Brookings Institute, the most money spent per voter during the 2014 Senate elections was in Alaska, where each vote amounted to an expenditure of $120.59, a federal, general election record that likely stands. And in 2012, Rick Perry spent $358 per voter in Iowa, finishing in a distant fourth place and effectively ending his presidential campaign. By contrast, during last year’s election, Donald Trump spent only $5 per voter (notably, though, Trump’s campaign benefitted from earned media attention valued at more than $5 billion).
Of course, there is ample evidence that “money is a pretty good predictor of who will win elections,” and Scurlock’s anemic performance is explained, at least partially, by the fact that he effectively abandoned his campaign three weeks ago, after The Advocate reported he had been charged in California with a misdemeanor count of lewd conduct for allegedly masturbating in the backseat of an Uber earlier this year, a story that attracted international attention.
That said, although his quixotic campaign was never taken seriously (he barely registered in the polls), Scurlock had been spending seriously, investing more than $180,000 on billboards, television commercials, print advertisement, and social media outreach.
No candidate for any elected office has ever spent as much per voter in modern Louisiana history. But Frank Scurlock wasn’t close to setting a national record for worst return on investment.
Last year in Iowa, Jeb Bush spent approximately $2,800 per voter, and suffice it to say, the election didn’t turn out as he had planned either.
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