PORTLAND – Tuesday’s primary elections proved again that money doesn’t necessarily equal success in Maine politics.

But spending at the right moment appeared to help at least one candidate.

An analysis of money raised by candidates and how many votes they got shows that state Sen. Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth, who won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, raised the least money per vote, $1.91, of any major party candidate.

Dill ran one of the leanest campaigns and got the most votes — more than 22,000.

Her closest competitor, former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap of Old Town, raised $5.56 per vote. State Rep. Jon Hinck of Portland, who finished a distant third, raised $18.37 per vote.

“It’s interesting to see how well Dill did with how little money she had,” said Jim Melcher, a political scientist at the University of Maine Farmington.

What mattered more than money was the fact that Dill was seen as a fierce partisan, so she appealed to the core primary voters, Melcher said. “I don’t think you’ve got to have a lot of money to win a primary. I think you need people with passion behind you, and I think Dill’s experience showed that.”

The winner of the Republican primary, Secretary of State Charlie Summers of Scarborough, wasn’t among the top money raisers in his primary. However, a cash infusion right before the election did allow Summers to air more television commercials.

Melcher and other political experts said the low turnout for Tuesday’s primary also limited the impact of money.

The official voter turnout won’t be calculated until the end of the week, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. But with 95 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday, unofficial results showed that just 13.1 percent of Maine’s registered voters — 120,076 — cast ballots in the Republican and Democratic U.S. Senate primaries.

That number doesn’t include independent voters who cast ballots on local referendum questions but could not vote in the party primaries.

A typical June primary draws about 20 percent of Maine voters.

While Dill got a lot of bang for her campaign buck, she didn’t have to keep up with any big-money rivals.

Mark Brewer, a political scientist at the University of Maine, said money was less of a factor for the Democrats because none of the four bought pricey TV spots. Hinck raised the most money — more than twice Dill’s total — but “it clearly didn’t help him,” Brewer said.

Four of the six Republican candidates put commercials on television, including Summers. The Republican winner raised far more than Dill, but he wasn’t in the top tier of fundraisers in the GOP race.

Summers got 29 percent of the vote, and raised the second-least per vote, $7.72, among the GOP candidates.

State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin of Georgetown, the Republican runner-up, raised $17.45 per vote. Third-place finisher Rick Bennett, a former state Senate president from Oxford, raised $16.71.

Scott D’Amboise, the businessman from Lisbon Falls who got 11 percent of the vote, raised a whopping $92.27 per vote, although he was in the race considerably longer than any other candidate because he was challenging Sen. Olympia Snowe before she announced her retirement in February.

“D’Amboise raised the most and nobody knows what he did with his money, so he clearly did the worst with his money,” Brewer said Wednesday. “But I think you could say that it mattered for Summers because he needed to get on TV and that probably helped him fend off Poliquin. But this race was more about name recognition than money.”

Summers’ success makes it apparent that money spent at the right time does help. Campaign finance reports show that Summers donated $50,000 to his campaign in the two weeks before the primary. His campaign spokeswoman, Jen Webber, said that money went directly to TV ads in the finals days of the race.

Poliquin came up short for the second time after outspending opponents. He finished sixth in the seven-way GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010 despite spending the second-most money, much of it his own.

This time, Poliquin self-financed about half of his campaign and used that money largely on TV and other advertising.

Brewer said money played even less of a role in the Republican primaries in Maine’s two congressional districts.

And in Saco, state Rep. Linda Valentino easily defeated state Rep. Donald Pilon in the Democratic state Senate primary, even though a pro-racino political action committee spent $9,513 to support Pilon.

Money could play a larger role in November’s U.S. Senate election, a race between Dill, Summers and independent Angus King, who was Maine’s governor from 1995 to 2003.

Three lesser-known independent candidates — Steve Woods, Danny Dalton and Andrew Ian Dodge — also have qualified for the ballot.

Brewer said the big question is whether King’s presence and popularity will scare off big Republican and Democratic donors.

“The party money will be what to watch. I don’t think we’ll see any national party money,” he said. “Maybe if Summers can convince them that with some help, he can take down King, someone might cut him some checks, but they won’t want to throw that money away.”

Nationally, the Democratic Party has not committed to investing in Dill’s campaign. “It will be (decided in) a careful set of meetings, I think, between Sen. Dill and national party leaders,” said Dill’s campaign spokesman, Bob Mentzinger.

Melcher said he thinks that plenty of money will be spent in Maine, in general election campaigns and on referendum questions, in part because “Maine is such a cheap media buy.”

On the other hand, he said, “I think to some extent people here are a little more immune to that kind of flash and that kind of advertising.”

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

[email protected]