Georgia Senate Race Again Draws Huge Spending: ‘There’s Never Been Anything Like It


10/25/20222 min read

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There is Georgia and then there is everything else in the fascinating world of campaign money.

The Peach State currently tops the nation in terms of political spending, with an astounding $1.4 billion spent on just four races since the start of 2020, according to a New York Times analysis. This is despite the fact that political spending in America seems to reach astounding new heights every two years.

Both parties invested more than $406 million in Raphael Warnock's winning first Senate campaign two years ago. Not to be outdone, Jon Ossoff and his Republican opponent each received support totaling $514 million, shattering the previous record for a Senate election.

Governor Brian Kemp and his Democrat opponent Stacey.

Two key variables resulted in the cash flood.

Only two states, including Georgia, conduct general election runoffs, which take place when neither candidate receives at least 50% of the vote. These runoff elections are basically second campaigns, requiring new rounds of advertising, get-out-the-vote initiatives, and direct mail flyers.

According to data from AdImpact, a media-tracking company, over the four weeks preceding Tuesday's runoff, close to $81 million had been spent on advertising to promote Mr. Warnock or Mr. Walker. This year's Senate campaign in Washington saw more money

The other factor is how Georgia, long considered a Republican stronghold, has slid into purple territory over the past few election cycles. The newfound parity between the parties in the state has drawn significant attention from donors around the country who see Georgia as being in play.“Because Georgia is now a battleground state, Democrats think they have a shot at it,” said Joseph Watson Jr., a professor of public affairs communications at the University of Georgia. “As a result, these local races have become nationalized.”Campaign finance data supports that notion. More than 80 percent of the $53.7 million raised by One Georgia, an independent leadership committee backing Ms. Abrams’s unsuccessful run for governor, came from outside the state, as did almost exactly half of the $38.4 million hauled in by Mr. Kemp’s leadership committee, Georgia First. Mr. Kemp won the race by more than seven percentage points.

Those factors are particularly amplified when control of the Senate is at stake, which was the case for both Senate elections in Georgia in early 2021, a time when the runoff period was twice as long as it is this year. That helps explain the eye-popping $507 million in advertising spent during the eight-week runoff contests in Georgia that year, according to AdImpact data.This year, the second-most-expensive race was Pennsylvania’s Senate contest, where Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Mehmet Oz and their allies spent a combined $313 million. Overall spending in competitive, statewide races in Pennsylvania — including the race for governor — totaled more than $381 million. In Georgia, the amount spent on the races for Senate and governor added up to at least $508 million.All of that money is a boon to advertising firms and TV stations. Hilton Howell, the chairman of Gray Television, which owns stations in all but one market in Georgia, called it a “tremendous amount of spending” and “a nice Christmas present under the tree for our shareholders.” A single ABC affiliate in Atlanta, owned by a different company, has booked $86 million in political advertisements so far this year, more than any local station in America.But some experts question the utility of so much advertising when it comes to actually winning the hearts — and votes — of the citizenry.Erika Franklin Fowler, a professor of government at Wesleyan University and a director of the Wesleyan Media Project, a group that studies political advertising, said the impact of spending on races diminishes as more money and advertising flood into a state or media market.“Because control of the chamber is at stake, or the added cushion, at least, I think that certainly is what is driving these numbers,” she said. “Campaigns and parties care about winning and less about efficiency, shall we say.”

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