THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE
Published: 10 June 2012 06:45 PM

Rep. Gary Miller and his financial backers spent almost $100 for every vote the Republican lawmaker collected on his way to a first-place showing in last week’s primary election in California’s 31st Congressional District.

The contest for the San Bernardino-area seat continues to reverberate around the country. Democrats who hoped to snag the seat on their way to retaking the House majority were shut out of the race entirely, as Miller and state Sen. Bob Dutton claimed the top two spots in the primary.

While several factors were at play, the heavy spending stands out. The contest attracted more spending from super PACs and other outside spending groups than virtually any House race nationwide. Miller, who now represents an Orange County-dominated seat, ran in the 31st after Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, announced retirement plans.

Miller threw more than three-quarters of a million dollars from his own war chest into the race as of May 16, and got more than $800,000 in super PAC backing from the National Realtors Association. The influx of campaign cash came as the state witnessed historically low voter turnout on Election Day.

In the end, Miller et al spent $95.63 for each of the 16,319 votes he received. That’s over eight times more than the $11.99 Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and his outside supporters spent on his way to a second-place finish and a berth in what is certain to be a wild intraparty general election battle.

The leading Democrat, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, and his backers spent $28.41 per vote. Aguilar, who finished about 1,500 votes behind Dutton, had $100,000 in his campaign account as of May 16.

Loma Linda Attorney Justin Kim, another Democrat, finished fourth and spent $9.65 for every vote. Nonprofit founder Renea Wickman spent $6.25 for every vote she got. For retired educator Rita Ramirez-Dean, the votes were free, since she reported no fundraising. But Ramirez-Dean finished last, just behind Wickman.

The numbers could change slightly after the San Bernardino County registrar certifies final vote totals in the coming weeks.

TO THE SOUTH…

Votes also were pricey in Riverside County’s 31st Senate District, where Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona, will face Riverside business attorney Richard Roth, a Democrat, in November. (That’s right, Inland Southern California has neighboring, competitive political districts with the same number and Republican candidates with the last name of “Miller.”)

Roth, a Democrat, had spent more than $311,000 through May 19. In addition, union-funded independent expenditure groups spent another $633,435 supporting Roth or tearing down his Democratic rival, former lawmaker Steve Clute.

Roth had 20,323 votes as of Friday night. That comes out to a tidy $46 per vote.

Clute, who had 14,208 votes, spent $49,000 through May 19. In addition, business-backed independent expenditure committees spent $308,000 supporting Clute or slamming Roth. That equals $25 per vote.

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