With no major national issues dominating this Election Day, much of the drama today will come from seeing which multimillionaire politicians find money helps buy them success at the ballot box.
The exact totals won't be known until the candidates' final disbursement reports are filed, but it's already clear some wealthy political heavyweights have been digging deep into their pockets.
Big Spending in the Big Apple and Beyond
New York City's Republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is likely spend more than $80 million from his hefty personal bank account in his attempt to win another four years at the helm of City Hall. That amount of money would break the record (set by Bloomberg in 2001) for campaign spending for a non-presidential contest.
Fernando Ferrer, Bloomberg's Democratic opponent (who, unlike the mayor, is not worth $5 billion), is accepting public matching funds and is expected to spend roughly $10 million by the time the polls close.
In 2001, Bloomberg spent $73 million to win City Hall -- roughly $98 for each vote he received on Election Day.
Multimillionaire rivals have made the New Jersey's governor's race the state's most expensive on record. Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., and Republican businessman Doug Forrester, have burned through a combined $70 million, with Corzine expected to spend more than $40 million -- mostly his own money -- on the race.
While some voters have expressed concern that politics has become a field where only the wealthiest individuals can mount viable candidacies, other voters seem to like the aura of independence personal wealth sometimes adds to a candidate. The cost of advertising in the competitive New York-area media market underlies the spiraling spending tabs.
But candidates appear willing to foot the bill. In his Sunday column, commentator George Will calculated that the millions Corzine spent in his successful 2000 senate race worked out to $27,489.03 per day of his work as a U.S. senator.
California Special Election and Ballot Measures
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is also dipping into his personal fortune in support of several statewide ballot measures.
Unions, led by the California Teachers Association, will spend at least $100 million to defeat Schwarzenegger's four initiatives: Proposition 74 (which would extend the probation period for public school teachers and affect dismissal and tenure policies), Proposition 75 (which would require employee consent for union political contributions), Proposition 76 (which would modify state spending and school funding limits), and Proposition 77 (which amends the process for redistricting California's Senate, Assembly, Congressional and Board of Equalization districts) on the state ballot.
The Schwarzenegger campaign is spending about $50 million -- more than $7 million of it coming from Schwarzenegger's personal fortune.
There is also quite a bit of money being spent in a separate ballot measure battle in California apart from the Schwarzenegger-backed agenda.
Drug companies are spending nearly $80 million to defeat Proposition 79, which would require them to provide low-cost prescriptions to the state's uninsured and low-income residents or be barred from participating in the state's Medi-Cal program. The industry also is promoting Proposition 78, a rival drug plan.