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Politics and Government

Spending 5 times higher on state Senate races this year than in 2016

With eight days until ballots are counted, the tally of all general election TV advertising buys hits $52.1 million

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Candidates and committees still are scooping up political TV ad time with only eight days until the election comes to a close, adding nearly $2.5 million in spending last week.

That brings total election-year spending to $66.9 million, $52.1 million of that on the general election alone.

Many of the ads airing focus on the governor’s contest, the 6th Congressional District and ballot initiatives, where oil and gas interests are spending heavily.

But the TV ad tea leaves point to some other contests that are hot, based on contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission through Oct. 26.

(Keep in mind than not all outside spending at the state level is reported by TV stations. The Colorado Sun will have more details on outside spending Tuesday.)

Here’s a look at spending by contest:

State Senate contests are drawing considerably more TV ad spending than two years ago, the first year the FCC required reporting by cable TV outlets. In 2016, four contests attracted $773,000 in TV ad spending based on FCC contracts. That compares with $4.1 million on seven Senate contests this year.

  • Senate District 20 leads in this category with nearly $1.4 million in reported spending. Democratic state Rep. Jessie Danielson is spending $110,000 on her own TV ads, while Republican Christine Jensen is spending less than $700 on a small cable ad buy. New this week: GOP super PAC Business Opportunity Fund airing nearly $118,000 worth of ads supporting Jensen. But Democratic super PAC Coloradans for Fairness has spent more than $755,000 on ads attacking Jensen in the Jefferson County-based district that takes in Wheat Ridge and Arvada.
  • Democratic challenger state Rep. Faith Winter is airing about $30,000 worth of ads in Adams County Senate District 24, where she’s trying to unseat GOP Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik. Coloradans for Fairness has spent about $715,000 attacking Martinez Humenik there, while at two GOP groups have spent at least $517,000 on ads in the district. That’s a total of more than $1.2 million in reported ad contracts in the district.
  • In Senate District 16, Democrat Tammy Story is spending nearly $110,000 on TV as she challenges GOP Sen. Tim Neville in a district that covers western Jefferson County and parts of several other mountain counties. Neville is spending about $31,000 on ads in the waning days. That district has seen about $925,000 worth of reported TV ad spending.

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The 3rd Congressional District race between GOP Rep. Scott Tipton and former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat, is considered competitive, though “leans Republican,” by Cook Political Report. Five Thirty Eight is calling it a toss-up.

And the two candidates are trying to get the attention of voters on the Western Slope, San Luis Valley and Pueblo.

Tipton has spent $603,000, while Mitsch Bush is spending $448,000. That spending came in the six weeks leading up to Election Day. The two are now battling it out on their own, though during the summer two nonprofits aired anti-Tipton ads on health care including $253,000 worth after the primary.

In the 6th, Democratic challenger Jason Crow is outspending GOP U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman by more than $1.6 million. Crow now has booked nearly $4 million worth of TV advertising to Coffman’s $2.4 million.

Democrat Jason Crow, left, and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, in this photo illustration. (Left photo by Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun. Right photo provided.)

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting how much more Democratic statewide candidates are spending compared to their GOP rivals:

  • While Democratic Congressman Jared Polis leads all political ad spenders in his quest to become governor, his GOP opponent Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s campaign has spent only about $1 million.
  • In the contest for attorney general, Democrat Phil Weiser has spent nearly $655,000 on TV advertising, compared with $108,000 by GOP opponent George Brauchler.
  • Democratic secretary of state candidate Jenna Griswold is spending nearly $619,000 on TV ads, while incumbent Republican Wayne Williams isn’t on the TV.
  • Democratic state Rep. Dave Young is spending nearly $277,000 in his effort to be elected state treasurer, while Republican Brian Watson recently picked up contracts for about $48,000 in TV ads.

Outside groups are advertising heavily in the governor and attorney general contests.

Here’s a look at spending by all advertisers spending $100,000 or more:

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