Willard seemed to be a shoo-in to move onto the general election against incumbent Republican Glenn Anderson: Not only was Willard running a professional campaign, but he had some good ideas, a slew of big-name endorsements such as the Washington State Labor Council, and most of all, he'd outraised Anderson by $28,000. David Spring, the other Democratic challenger, who didn't list a single endorsement on his web site, had only $2000 to his name. We figured he was a goner.
But Spring pulled an upset on Tuesday night, getting 25 percent of the vote to Willard's 15. (Anderson is at 58.) Spring barely raised over $4000, $1800 of which came from his own pockets. Most of it was spent on yard signs and printing flyers.
Willard, on the other hand, had raised $77,000, spending $67,000 on campaign ads, campaign managers, office space and—most of all—nearly $20,000 on political consultants such as Winpower Strategies and Bailey & Bright Consulting.
That comes out to $17.85 spent per vote so far. Spring, on the other hand, spent 66 cents per vote.
What happened? As Willard told us, "The other two candidates were better known ... we had to start at zero."
Spring ran a shoestring campaign against Anderson—a five-term incumbent—in 2008, raising less than a third of Anderson's money, yet losing by less than 4 points.
Asked about the disparity between the amount of money he and Spring spent this year, Willard said, "I definitely don't believe that the result was due to poor execution or poor message. I just don't think we got the attention of the voters."
Willard is waiting for a couple of more counts to come in before conceding, but he seems unsure about trying for office again. "I'm not 100 percent sure that being a candidate is my best and highest use," he said. "I've always seen myself as more a supporter of other great candidacies ... [but] never say never."
Willard hedged on whether he would endorse Spring in the general election, saying it was "premature" to discuss the matter. We have a call in to Spring's campaign for comment.
Another big-money loser in the primary elections: progressive group Fuse Washington and its Impartial Justice PAC, which spent $74,000 on an ad blitz to unseat conservative Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson. (He's beating lefty challenger Stan Rumbaugh by 26 percentage points.) Their spending, plus Rumbaugh's campaign expenditures, translates into 98 cents per vote so far.