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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks after a debate with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke on Sept. 30, 2022, in McAllen.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks after a debate with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke on Sept. 30, 2022, in McAllen.Eric Gay / AP file

Texas and Arizona top list of competitive gubernatorial races seeing an influx of new spending

A new ad spending analysis since Labor Day shows big increases in ad spending in some interesting gubernatorial races.

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The post Labor-Day period always serves as the unofficial marker of a campaign season’s home stretch. With more and more voters starting to pay attention as the summer comes to an end, keeping track of spending trends helps to show how the political power players are prioritizing the large battleground map. 

When comparing ad spending data from AdImpact from Sept. 5 through Sept. 18, and then from Sept. 19 through Oct. 2, eight gubernatorial races saw an increase in spending in the second two-week period by at least 30%. 

While many premier races (Georgia, Florida and Wisconsin) are ranked toward the top in total spending, here’s a look at the five gubernatorial races that have seen the largest ad spending increases between those two-week periods (only including races rated competitive by The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter). 

Texas: 61% increase in ad spending

Texas may be a longshot gubernatorial race for Democrats, but they’ve seen a massive increase in spending as of late — 116% alone between the two periods analyzed. 

The lion’s share of that spending on the Democratic side — more than $7 million over the last two weeks — came from an opaque outside group called Coulda Been Worse, which has been blanketing the state in ads attacking Republican Gov. Greg Abbott particularly on the response to the shooting at a Texas elementary school earlier this year and on new restrictive abortion laws in the state.

At the same time, both candidates have also been spending heavily — $5.6 million over the last two weeks from Abbott and almost $3 million from Democrat Beto O’Rourke. 

Arizona: 45% increase in ad spending

Arizona’s open gubernatorial seat has become one of the hottest contests in the country, pitting Republican Kari Lake (who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump and is one of the most ardent supporters of his false contention the 2020 election was stolen from him) and Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. 

Hobbs has refused to debate Lake, so while it’s unclear whether the two candidates will be taking the contrast to each other in person, they’re definitely taking the contrast to the airwaves. 

Both parties have upped their spending investment by at least 40% over the last two weeks, with Republicans spending $1.3 million and Democrats spending $2.4 million. Virtually all the spending has come from state parties, the candidates themselves or the Republican Governors Association. 

Connecticut: 43% increase in ad spending

Republicans are hoping that a rematch between their nominee, Bob Stefanowski, and Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont gives them a great chance to flip this state after Stefanowski lost by just a few percentage points in 2018.

That’s why GOP spending there increased 65% between those first two full weeks in September and the last two weeks. In concert with outside spending there, the Republicans actually spent more on the air than Democrats did over the last two weeks, $1.3 million to $1.2 million. 

Lamont is the only Democrat spending in the race as he tries to improve upon his narrow victory in 2018 now that he has a record to run on. 

New Mexico: 34% increase in ad spending

A possible sleeper race, Republicans have gotten more bullish about Mark Ronchetti’s chances against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Ad spending in the state has been steadily increasing since the middle of July, but as Republicans continue to invest, Democrats sharply increased their investment. Since Labor Day there has been a 45% increase in Democratic spending, split between the candidate and outside groups. 

Michigan: 31% increase

The fundamentals of the Michigan gubernatorial race haven’t changed — Democrats and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continue to massively outspend Republicans and their nominee, Tudor Dixon. But in the last two weeks, one GOP outside group has hopped on the airwaves in the hopes of providing Dixon a bit of a boost, amid questions whether the party has given up on the race altogether.  

Michigan Families United, a group that’s been partially funded by the wealthy DeVos family, has run about $650,000 in ads over the last two weeks, which represents a massive increase in spending on the GOP side. Even so, over the last two weeks, Democrats still outspent Republicans $6 million to $700,000.