State Superintendent’s Race Cost $1 Million

July 20, 2017

Tony Evers
Tony Evers

Spending by the candidates and outside special interest groups in the state school superintendent’s race last spring totaled about $1 million, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

Fundraising and spending reports filed this week show the three candidates spent about $767,650.

Candidate spending was led by incumbent School Superintendent Tony Evers, whose campaign doled out about $553,000 to win reelection to his third four-year term. Evers’ general election opponent, Lowell Holtz, spent about $143,900. The third candidate John Humphries, who lost in the February primary, spent $70,680 through March 20. There was no campaign report available for Humphries for the latest fundraising and spending period through June 30.

The Greater Wisconsin Committee, which has spent an estimated $34.7 million since 2006 to back Democratic legislative and statewide candidates, spent $225,270 on a television advertisement that supported Evers. Wisconsin Family Action, a conservative ideological group that opposes gay marriage and generally backs Republican and conservative candidates, spent about $1,200 on robocalls to support Holtz. This 200-1 advantage by the Democratic electioneering group is an anomaly. Apparently the big players on the Republican side – like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) and Wisconsin Club for Growth – gave up on Holtz, who shot himself in the foot during the primary.

Lowell Holtz
Lowell Holtz

In past state school superintendent races, like Evers’ 2009 election and 2013 reelection, one or more outside groups spent more than the candidates combined.

The spring elections are technically nonpartisan, but that’s in name only. During the past several spring elections for state school superintendent, special interest groups and individuals that generally support Democrats backed Evers, who was viewed as a more liberal candidate. Holtz, who was viewed as the conservative in the race, drew support from Republican campaign contributors.

To view the top contributors in the school superintendent’s race, go here, here, and here.

The other statewide race on the spring ballot saw incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler win reelection unopposed to a second 10-year term. Ziegler, who is one of five conservatives on the seven-member high court, only spent about $113,300 on the race and returned about $228,000 to contributors since she had no opponent.