The special election for Florida’s 13th Congressional District has attracted widespread attention — and a lot of outside money — in “ad wars” for the March 11 race to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who died in October.
Advertising in the district has reached a fever pitch, illustrating just how high the stakes are in a race that many view as a bellwether for the 2014 midterms.
Political expenses — by groups not directly affiliated with either Democrat Alex Sink or Republican David Jolly — are already at more than $3.2 million, according to Peter Olsen-Phillips of SunlightFoundation.com.
Benefiting the most from the latest money wave is Jolly. Pinellas County has become the epicenter of media buys and TV spots, where more than $2.3 million was spent either explicitly supporting Jolly or opposing Sink.
Last-minute advertising has leveled the playing field for Jolly, who was running behind Sink financially early in the race. Not helping matters was the Republican’s extra spending to win the GOP primary, leaving him at one time behind Sink by as much as $1 million. Sink did not have a primary challenge.
On the other hand, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee invested $886,041 in ads attacking Jolly, with the progressive House Majority PAC vowing to introduce another $650,000. The latest 30-second spot focuses on Jolly’s lobbying for a special interest group that advocates privatizing Social Security.
As of Tuesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent an additional $360,000 for a media buy, hiring three Washington D.C. consulting firms to provide anti-Sink attack ads.
According to Abby Livingston in Roll Call, Republican total spending on ads — between Jolly’s campaign and outside GOP groups — now ranges between $2.35 million and $2.7 million. Livingston rounded ad-spending totals, and ranges are based on discrepancies in reporting from the organizations:
- David Jolly: $176,000-$181,000
- National Republican Congressional Committee: $1.07 million
- American Action Network: $357,000
- American Crossroads: $357,000
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce: $745,000-$778,000
In contrast, Democrats spent $3.65 million to $3.75 million on advertising, by both Sink’s campaign and various party affiliated groups.
- Alex Sink Campaign: $1.033 million
- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: $1.96 million to $2.044 million
- House Majority PAC: $672,000
In the past week, Republicans spent $614,000 and Democrats about $545,000. In the week of Feb. 11-17, writes Livingston, airtime cost Republicans about $880,000 and Democrats $560,000.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is outspending NRCC by a 2-to-1 margin, but the Republicans are increasing spending weekly.
Sink outspent Jolly by about 6-to-1, mostly because Jolly had a GOP primary battle. Democrats cleared the field for Sink. Both the Democratic House leadership and the Democratic Florida delegation gave early to Sink’s campaign, even hosting a fundraiser on her behalf. In addition, federal regulations mandate candidates score better rates for airtime than outside groups.
However, Republicans are quickly catching up, thanks to outside groups, such as the U.S Chamber of Commerce, American Action Network and American Crossroads, which are all supporting Jolly.
Television is not the only battleground in CD 13. Sink supporter EMILY’s List and the Florida GOP are each spending on direct mail, with the NRCC making a large digital buy last month.
Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rated the event a “Tossup.”