Campaign finance data through mid-April: Kerr and Jacobs on track to spend their way into a 4-way split vote in June
The 49th district saw a stunning level of campaign spending in the first few months of 2018 with Paul Kerr dropping over $1.1 million on himself while Sara Jacobs and a friendly PAC spent over $1 million to support her.
We now know where Paul Kerr's dramatic 7-point increase in the latest SurveyUSA poll came from: A spend of over $1.1 million in a single quarter. Almost as much was spent on Sara Jacobs if you include the Women Vote! PAC spend through mid-April, but she didn't see the same sort of gains in the poll as Kerr.
Kerr and Jacobs are dramatically outspending Mike Levin and Doug Applegate in a race to the bottom that puts the 49th district at risk. We have continuously pointed out the danger of four Democrats splitting the vote in June which could hand the district to the Republicans. Now we're seeing this play out as the wealthy challengers buy their way into meaningful poll numbers and set up the Democrats for a near-even split vote in June.
It's worth noting that Sara Jacobs still has over $1 million in cash on hand.
The full campaign finance data dump for 2018 YTD is in the table below:
Notes: The data in these tables came from the FEC quarterly candidate filings plus the FEC 24/48 hour reports from PACs. Much of the $566,458 in PAC spending for Sara Jacobs happened in early April. So, the data is basically candidate spend from January 1 to March 31 plus PAC spend through April 20.
Full results from the April SurveyUSA poll of the 49th district (in PDF form) can be found in the file below:
Finally! The poll drought is over. SurveyUSA put a poll in the field in the 49th from April 6 to April 10, interviewing 535 likely primary voters. Here's how things stand with apples-to-apples comparisons to the February SurveyUSA poll (for every candidate over 1%):
1. Rocky Chavez (R), 16% (-1% from the February poll)
2. Doug Applegate (D), 12% (-6%)
3. Mike Levin (D), 9% (+1%)
4. Diane Harkey (R), 8% (-2%)
5. Paul Kerr (D), 8% (+7%)
6. Sara Jacobs (D), 7% (+2%)
7. Kristin Gaspar (R), 5% (-2%)
8. Brian Maryott (R), 5% (+3%)
9. Mike Schmitt (R), 3% (+3%)
On the Democratic side, the big surprises (for us) are that Doug Applegate is down 6 points and that Paul Kerr has moved up 7 points relative to where each of them stood in February. This is a true apples-to-apples comparison because the pollster is the same. Mike Levin and Sara Jacobs picked up a little ground (1% and 2% respectively) but that movement isn't much given the vast expenditures of money (in Sara's case) and effort (in Mike's case).
Our takeaway is that our vote-splitting fears are coming to pass with Paul Kerr and Sara Jacobs sapping momentum from the Democratic front-runners, sucking support away from Applegate and stalling Levin. We are rapidly approaching a point where all four Democrats are splitting the vote evenly. It's ugly.
The silver lining is that the Republicans are suffering the same problem as well, to a much greater extent than we expected. In February, Rocky Chavez and Diane Harkey were far ahead of the pack. Since then, Harkey has actually gone backwards, losing 2% and dropping to 4th place overall. Chavez is in 1st place but it's basically by default since he's down 1% relative to February. Meanwhile, Brian Maryott picked up 3% to clock in at 5% overall, Mike Schmitt came out of nowhere to get 3%, and Schoonover, Nordal, and Medway are all at 1%. The Republicans are (amazingly) in worse shape than the Democrats when it comes to vote splitting.
Other takeaways that we consider important:
So, what to make of all this? What can we do to make sure a Democrat gets through to November? We'll continue to try to turn out the vote, educate voters about the vote-splitting problem, and appeal to them to support the front-runner when the time comes. However, we are going to pause in our efforts to halt the momentum of Paul Kerr and Sara Jacobs given that they are now within a point or two of Mike Levin.
It's not at all clear who the Democratic front-runner will be in a month. We've been unable to slow down Paul Kerr and Sara Jacobs enough to keep Doug Applegate and Mike Levin strongly ahead. The four Democrats are getting closer and closer to splitting the vote evenly between them.
With no Kerr and Jacobs in the race, our suspicion is that we'd all start thinking about two Democrats on the November ballot right about now. However, with two weakened front-runners and two challengers spending like crazy and gaining ground, we are still in jeopardy.
We will have to count on Democratic turn-out and the fragmented Republican field to give us hope that a Democrat can take the second spot on the ballot in November.
Sara Jacobs and Paul Kerr are both very wealthy and are self-funding their campaigns, pouring millions of dollars into the primary election for the 49th district. Both of them are polling behind front-runners Doug Applegate and Mike Levin.
Jacobs and Kerr are very unlikely to win, but they can be spoilers in this election.
The torrent of cash from Jacobs and Kerr is weakening the two front-runners and increasing the odds that two Republicans will wind up on the final ballot in November.
Remember that California's Top Two primary system will move the top two vote-getters to the final ballot. If four Democrats split the vote, we're unlikely to wind up with any Democrats in November.
If you agree that it's time for Sara Jacobs and Paul Kerr to do the right thing and step aside, then sign the petition!
Voices of the 49th is committed to making sure that voters in the 49th congressional district have a meaningful choice in November... which means engaging, educating, informing, and influencing voters through the jungle primary in June so that a Democrat makes it on to the final ballot.