Author: Ryan

The Cost of Running for the Senate

The Cost of Running for the Senate

How Karen Bass prevailed against Rick Caruso’s $100-million campaign against her, and other lessons


Published May 3, 2012

Updated May 3, 2012 at 10:01am, May 3, 2012 at 1:34pm

When Katelyn Burns ran for the Senate in 2010, she was an underdog and her primary opponent Rick Caruso had raised $80,000 — far more than Burns herself. Burns won in the end, but it was no easy feat.

“There is no way to spin this,” Burns said of the fight against Caruso. “He had a team of people in the field, and they were paid $3,000 a month for four months. The media coverage I get is just unbelievable, and it’s been a real learning opportunity for me as a public figure. But it is the truth.”

It cost Caruso $20,000 and over $40,000 to mount his campaign, and it cost Burns at least an additional $20,000 to run as a write-in candidate. And that is just counting the cost of her own campaign.

But for a little-known Democrat who was barely elected to the U.S. House less than a year ago, a battle against the well-funded Republican Senate leader is a story of how to use the advantages of incumbency to stand up to the forces working against you. Indeed, it was the second-largest spending by a challenger to a sitting Senate leader during the 2010 campaign cycle, and a sign of its impact on the race.

Karen Bass, the Democratic candidate to replace Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, faced no such problem. She ran on the Democratic ticket as a write-in candidate, and she got $70,000 from her own personal finances.

With millions of dollars to spend on a campaign against Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, Bass did her job in 2010.

First, she used that money to

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