Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

How Glenda Ritz Narrowed The Campaign Finance Gap (A Little Bit, Anyway)

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Retired teacher Jill Lyday helps stuff bumper stickers and postcards into plastic bags for state superintendent candidate Glenda Ritz, a Democrat.

Early on, big infusions of campaign cash from teacher unions and from interest groups fueled Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction race.

That dynamic may have changed slightly in the last few months.

Quarterly campaign finance reports released this week show GOP candidate Tony Bennett again out-fundraised Democratic opponent Glenda Ritz — but not by as much as he did last quarter.

The difference in this quarter for Ritz? Hundreds of contributions of less than $100 to her campaign — combined she’s received $50,000 worth of those to date — and another cash infusion from her campaign’s biggest supporter, the political arm of the Indiana State Teachers Association. 

Bennett, the incumbent state superintendent, raised more than $615,000 in the third quarter — which covers the months of July, August and September — to push his contribution total to $1.2 million for the year. The quarterly report shows Bennett has roughly $1 million on hand.

Ritz’s report shows her campaign has spent most of the $186,000 it brought in in the third quarter.

Most of that money came from I-PACE — the ISTA‘s political action committee — which contributed $108,000 to Ritz’s campaign in the third quarter. After the quarter ended on September 30, I-PACE gave Ritz an additional $65,000 on October 18. In total, the committee has given Ritz $173,000 since June.

Big Donors

We’ve written about large contributions to the Bennett campaign from a wide variety of big-name donors, from an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

More than 40 percent of Bennett’s campaign dollars have come from outside Indiana, which the Ritz campaign says should raise red flags with voters.

But the Bennett campaign has said these gifts simply show the level of interest nationally in changes to Indiana’s education policy. Campaign finance expert Andrew Downs, who runs IPFW’s Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, says Bennett has raised the visibility of the office of state superintendent. Downs tells StateImpact:

The moment you cross some threshold of raising money, it’s no longer an office where people can say, ‘Hey, you know what? It’s January, I think maybe I’ll try to get the nomination at my party convention this summer and run for the office.’ When it becomes a higher-profile race, you have to start thinking about those things further and further in advance because you have to come up with more and more money further in advance.

Out-of-state contributions are fairly common in statewide elections. Since 2004, Indiana gubernatorial candidates have received at least 20 percent of their campaign cash from out-of-state contributors (some have raised a lot more).

Small Ball

Nearly all of the 449 contributions to Bennett’s campaign in 2012 came in amounts of $100 or more and 193 came in amounts of $1,000 or more.

But of 1,148 contributions to Ritz’s campaign this year, more than 1,000 of them were for $100 or less.

“I am not worried about funding for this campaign,” Ritz told StateImpact in August. “I have a good grassroots campaign. And at the end of the day, it’s about who shows up at the polls, and I firmly believe that I’ll be the next superintendent of public instruction.”

The candidates will debate on October 26 on live radio — less than two weeks before voters decide which will be state superintendent for the next four years.

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