On May 19, Philadelphia Democrats set a record for the lowest turnout in the party's history: Only 234,000 of 806,000 registered Democrats bothered to vote.

It turns out another record was set during the primary season as well - the most money ever spent.

When you add it up, Democratic candidates for office - and the political action committees that supported them - spent $28.7 million during the months that led up to the primary.

It was, by far, the most expensive election ever in the city, even after taking inflation into account.

The total is based on campaign finance reports filed with city and state election agencies. It could go higher because a number of candidates and PACs have yet to file all (or, in some cases, any) of the reports required by law. One glaring example: 23 of the city's 69 Democratic wards failed to file a single scrap of paper about money raised or spent this year.

If you add up the money spent, and divide it into the total turnout, it comes to $122 for each Democratic voter who cast a vote.

Never has so much been spent by so many to attract so few.

While the reason for the low turnout isn't easy to pinpoint, that's not the case when it comes to the motives for the money.

For starters, there were highly competitive races for some offices, including mayor and Council at-large. The six candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor spent a total of nearly $5.3 million. Jim Kenney, the eventual winner, and State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams each spent about $1.8 million. (In contrast, Melissa Murray Bailey, who was unopposed for the Republican nomination, spent $1,124. And for the record: All other Republicans running for city offices spent a total of $630,000.)

There were 16 Democratic candidates for the five at-large City Council seats and they spent a total of $4.1 million. The undisputed king of spending was the man formerly known as the "Condo King" - real estate developer Allan Domb. He spent $1.4 million, most of it his own money. Domb spent $1 million in radio and TV ads, and lavished street money on 19 city wards to gain a place on the sample ballots that committee people hand out to voters.

Domb won at the expense of longtime Councilman Wilson Goode Jr., who spent $70,000, which was much compared with previous races - where he often spent little or nothing. Goode had the party's endorsement, but it's clear he was "cut" - his name was left off sample ballots.

Meanwhile, in South Philadelphia's Second Council District, incumbent Kenyatta Johnson faced developer Ori Feibush in another ultraexpensive race that cost the two a total of $1.6 million. Johnson won in a walk.

Another major factor in the spending spree was the arrival of Independent Expenditure Committees (IECs), the so-called super PACs that are exempt from the limits the city puts on contributions.

There were three super PACs: American Cities, which was pro-Williams; and Forward Philadelphia and Building a Better Philadelphia, which were pro-Kenney. The three spent a total of $10.1 million during the primary season, with $8.6 million going for TV advertising.

The two pro-Kenney PACs were heavily financed by labor unions - among them the American Federation of Teachers, the International Brother of Electrical Workers, and AFSCME.

American Cities PAC was financed almost entirely by the three partners of Susquehanna International Group, a commodities and stock trading firm based in Bala Cynwyd.

Partners Arthur Dantchik, Jeff Yass, and Joel Greenberg each contributed $2.3 million to the super PAC. The three multi-multi-millionaires are pro-charter and believers in educational choice. Their PAC spent a total of $5.8 million in TV ads on behalf of Williams, thus proving the adage that money can't buy happiness.

With so much money floating around, a look at the campaign finance reports conjures up the image of frenetic activity: $2.1 million paid to consultants; nearly $800,000 for printing mailers, door-hangers, and brochures; more than $400,000 for food - not including the $1,789 spent at Dunkin' Donuts. There was $615 spent on balloons. That can buy a whole lot of balloons.

Meanwhile, the candidates and the major PACs showered the city with street money, the cash given to committee people for their efforts on election day. Normally, street money totals about $350,000 citywide. This time, there was $1.3 million spent on get-out-the-vote efforts - though how much of it actually trickled down the street remains to be seen.

There was a crowded ballot in this year's Democratic primary: six candidates for mayor, 16 for five Council at-large seats, and a scrum of 51 candidates for 15 vacancies on Common Pleas and Municipal Courts.

Yet, when all the millions were spent, after the $12 million in TV ads ran, and after all the votes were counted, only three incumbents lost: Goode; freshman at-large Councilman Ed Neilson (who promptly went on to be elected to a seat in the state House); and Common Pleas Court Judge Vincent Melchiorre, an appointee to the bench who was seeking a full 10-year term.

To summarize: We had nearly $29 million spent to draw 234,000 people to the polls in an election where only three incumbents were unseated.