It’s a malady shared by Helen Chenoweth, John Glenn and Larry LaRocco.
It lingers long after they cross the finish line.
And it was three times greater a problem after the 1994 election than it was 10 years earlier. It’s the scourge of campaign debt.
Glenn, a former astronaut and Democratic senator from Ohio, still owes more than $3 million from his failed bid for the presidency in 1984, said Josh Goldstein of the Center for Responsive Politics.
Chenoweth, a Republican, is $102,000 in debt from her victorious 1994 race against Democratic incumbent LaRocco for one of Idaho’s two seats in the U.S. House. More than half of it is money she loaned her campaign.
Her campaign debt is no liability. “I don’t think it will prevent her from financing her current campaign at as high a level as she wants,” Goldstein said.
LaRocco closed out 1995 still $18,584 in debt from that 1994 race. The money is owed to a Washington, D.C. pollster.
Ron McMurray, who challenged Chenoweth in the Republican primary, still owes $54,500, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
This debt is common among candidates fighting increasingly onerous campaign costs.
In the 1986 election, candidates spent an average of $325,000 to win a U.S. House seat. House and Senate politicians put $32 million of their own money into the races and borrowed $40 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
By the 1994 race, the average spent on a campaign for the U.S. House rose to $516,000. Candidates went $95 million in debt and pumped $107 million of their own money into their campaigns.
The debt is toughest to shake for the losers, who have no influence and therefore attract little money. For the winners, “it means you come to Washington and PACs and lobbyists and other special-interest donors end up financing your campaign,” Goldstein said.
“It means candidates are even more grateful than they normally would be,” he said.