Suzan DelBene’s ubiquitous TV commercials (“Suzan DelBene! Suzan DelBene!”) in the 1st Congressional District bumped her up in the polls, and her $2.3 million in self-financing could help buy her a win tonight.
But if she advances, DelBene’s campaign faces an ominous trend: self-financed candidates usually land with a thud.
As I reported toward the end of a Seattle Times profile on DelBene, 47 of the 58 federal candidates who spent at least $500,000 of their own money — including DelBene — lost their elections in 2010. The Center for Responsive Politics has a nifty chart tracking “millionaire candidates” and their losses.
Experts such as Jennifer Steen of Arizona State University attribute that in part to inexperience, or worse. “You can call it arrogance or naivete, to be more charitable,” Steen told The Washington Post in 2010. “They don’t tend to learn the lessons of past self-financiers, and they don’t tend to recognize their own deficiencies.”
It isn’t just a one-year blip. In 2006, of the 13 candidates who invested more than $1 million of their wealth into general-election campaigns for the House and Senate, only three made it to Congress, according to a 2010 story in The American Prospect titled “The Myth of the Self-Funded Candidate.”
DelBene has now spent almost $4.6 million, including $2.28 million in losing to U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in the 8th District in 2010. If she wins tonight, can DelBene buck the trend?