If the three-way GOP primary race for the 52nd House District seat were based solely on fundraising, David McSweeney's victory on March 20 would be all but locked up.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the Barrington Hills financial consultant collected more than $143,000, compared to $33,780 for incumbent state Rep. Kent Gaffney and $790 for fellow challenger Danielle Rowe, according to Illinois State Board of Elections filings.
The same pattern holds true on the spending side, with McSweeney pouring about $116,000 into the race, more than four times more than Gaffney and nearly 30 times as much as Rowe.
The bulk of McSweeney's expenditures can be attributed to 15 political mailings he's sent out to the district since October. Gaffney mailed his first campaign ad just last week, while Rowe is still preparing her initial mailer.
McSweeney also spent more than $32,000 on consulting and campaign management fees, and another $15,000 on an attorney who helped challenge both Gaffney's and Rowe's nomination petitions.
Though he began 2012 with nearly $30,000 cash on hand, McSweeney loaned his committee $50,000 on Feb. 2. He said he wanted to ensure his campaign was prepared for the March 12 fundraiser it's hosting featuring U.S. Sen. John McCain.
Several of his most sizable contributions came from leaders of big companies, including the Pepper Cos., W.W. Grainger and Bank of America.
"These are people I've worked with over the years, who know the value I can bring to changing the way the state is run," McSweeney said.
Gaffney worked as the House Republican budget director for 11 years before he was appointed to the 52nd District seat in the wake of former officeholder Mark Beaubien's death. He began the year with $36,000 cash on hand and has since raised an additional $18,000, filings show.
The Lake Barrington resident used his first political mailer to focus on his work as a "budget expert" who has fought for fiscal responsibility in Springfield. His most significant contributions have come from political action committees representing a range of industries such as insurance, hospitals, construction and real estate brokers.
Gaffney said he's particularly proud of the $10,000 he recently received from the We Mean Business PAC because of its association with the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a group he's worked with on pension reform.
Whereas McSweeney said Gaffney's multiple PAC contributions mean he'll be "beholden to the special interests that have contributed to his campaign," Gaffney said they're a reflection of his strong working relationship with various groups.
"In no way does it mean I'm going to be 'with' them, but they know I try to work with both Democrats and Republicans and I'm going to be fair and reasonable," Gaffney said.
Rowe, a marketing executive from Island Lake, believes spending the kind of money McSweeney has in this economy may actually backfire.
"I'm getting donations from citizens with a smaller income who I know will be casting a ballot," Rowe said. "People aren't more electable because they have money."
Although she collected just $790 in the fourth quarter of 2011, Rowe has raised nearly $20,000 since Jan. 1, including $5,000 from both the more conservative Empowering Children and Illinois Liberty PACs.
She said her campaign delayed sending out the first of four planned mailers because it received word Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch wanted to lend her support. The conservative Republican will be quoted in Rowe's debut ad.
Rowe said she, more so than her opponents, has gone "outside the box" by utilizing social media, videos and in-kind contributions to get her message out.
The 52nd House District covers parts of Barrington, Island Lake, Oakwood Hills, Wauconda, North Barrington, Lake in the Hills, Fox River Grove, Trout Valley, Algonquin, Barrington Hills, South Barrington, Cary and Crystal Lake.