Last week, we explored how the success rate of open-seat primary candidates varied with how their contribution totals ranked among their rival candidates. In general, money has been a pretty good predictor of primary success since at least 2006, the first year of our study frame:

  • 77% of candidates who raised the most money either won outright or advanced to a runoff
  • 58% of candidates who had the second-highest contribution total won outright or advanced to a runoff
  • 25% of candidates who had the third-highest contribution total advanced to a runoff (None won outright.); and
  • 9% of candidates ranked fourth or lower advanced to a runoff (None won outright.).

Nearly all of the candidates ranked third and lower who advanced to a runoff emerged from larger pools of candidates. Just one of every 20 candidates who had the lowest contribution total qualified for a runoff, regardless of the number of candidates in the race.

Candidates who raised and spent the most money won 25% of the time, advanced 58% of the time and lost or missed the runoff just 16% of the time. None of the outright winners and just 14% of runoff candidates were outside of the top two in both total contributions and total expenditures. Half of all runoffs involved the two candidates who spent the most money.

Today, we examined two-person primary races for open seats and found that money is an even stronger predictor. The candidate with the greater contribution total won 85% of the time.

This report ranks candidates for open-seat primary races for statewide office and the legislature based on total contributions for the 2017-18 election cycle as of January 25.

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