Ericka Ellis-Stewart and Mary McCray spent less than $15,000 each to win countywide seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, final campaign finance reports show.
That's a sharp contrast with the previous at-large election in 2007, when the three winners spent $21,000 (Joe White) to $58,650 (Kaye McGarry). The 2007 crew also pulled larger vote totals, with first-place McGarry logging 59,392 votes to Ellis-Stewart's 35,341, the top tally in 2011.
A lot changed in those four years. A lingering economic slump made fund-raising harder. The field of candidates doubled, from seven in 2007 to 14 in 2011. Voter turnout slumped, from 24 percent to 16 percent. The most recent race had no incumbents, while all three 2007 winners already held the seats. And the local Democratic party broke with tradition this year by endorsing candidates (Ellis-Stewart, McCray and Aaron Pomis) and mobilizing voters for the school board race.
Ellis-Stewart, who ran her own campaign, apparently spent $13,900 on her campaign. She didn't fill in the column for the running tally, but that's the total from her three individual reports. That comes to about 39 cents a vote, compared with 45 cents to 99 cents for the 2007 winners.
McCray, who finished second, reports spending just over $11,000, or about 42 cents a vote. Third-place Tim Morgan, who already held the District 6 seat, spent just over $23,000, or about 93 cents a vote.
Elyse Dashew, who finished fourth, was the race's big spender, reporting about $42,100 in expenses (about $1.79 a vote). The school board race is nonpartisan, which means there are no primaries and no parties listed on the ballot. But Dashew, who is unaffiliated, was likely hobbled by having no political party pushing her candidacy.
Going into the 2011 school board campaign, there had been speculation that it would take around $50,000 to win a seat. That was fueled partly by Eric Davis' District 5 campaign in 2009; he spent just over $58,000 to win a decisive victory over one opponent, at a cost of about $3.26 per vote.