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With midterms over, NC ad spending tops $29M

November 8th, 2018

— Political groups and candidates spent an estimated $29 million on advertising over North Carolina airwaves this election season.

That’s according to a WRAL News analysis of spending data from Kantar Media from April 1 through Nov. 7 that includes almost 80,000 ads aired in markets across the state.

North Carolina flag flies over state capitol

Much of the spending was concentrated in three close congressional races ultimately won by Republican candidates. But almost half of the total came in state legislative races – House and Senate – where almost every single seat was contested for what may be the first time in the state’s history.

In those races, Democrats flipped enough seats to break the Republicans’ veto-proof majority, which may give Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper more room at the negotiating table.

The $29 million figure is a conservative one and does not include advertising on cable, mail, radio or other platforms like social media. It also doesn’t include issue ads, such as those advocating for or against the six constitutional amendments on the ballot.

In the Charlotte market, the race for the open 9th Congressional District seat between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready saw more than $7 million worth of ads. More than half of that was spending by the candidates themselves, who on their own aired about 10,000 commercials throughout the year.

That’s a contrast with the matchup between Republican 2nd District Congressman George Holding and Democratic challenger Linda Coleman, whose own spending was outmatched by outside groups arguing on their behalf. Party-aligned committees and interest groups made up almost two-thirds of the the $4.4 million on ads in that race.

While spending in favor of McCready’s candidacy outmatched those for Harris 2 to 1, costs for the two 2nd District candidates were roughly the same.

For the General Assembly, spending by candidates and interest groups totaled $12.5 million, an amount scattered across dozens of races in both chambers throughout the state.

Whether they targeted state or federal contests, though, health care was often the theme of this election – at least on television. Almost 40 percent of the ads that aired during both primary and general election contests this year mentioned health care in some aspect.

Health care ads outnumbered commercials mentioning jobs or the economy – at a time when unemployment is at record lows for the state and the nation – nearly 3 to 1.

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