Explosion of spending pushes up cost of US Senate race

Posted October 14, 2014 4:25 p.m. EDT
Updated October 14, 2014 4:56 p.m. EDT

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis

— The candidates for North Carolina's U.S. Senate seat and their political allies aired 12,514 political spots on broadcast television, costing an estimated $9.6 million in the first 12 days of October alone, according to data provided to WRAL News by Kantar Media.

From May 7, the day after the North Carolina primary that pitted Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan against Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis, through Oct. 12, an estimated $37.8 million has been spent on broadcast advertising alone. That figure doesn't count cable ads, ads played as part of Internet videos or other non-ad spending by the campaigns.

Libertarian Sean Haugh is also on the ballot, but thus far, he has logged no television advertising.

While North Carolina's U.S. Senate campaign has been one of the most expensive and hotly contested throughout the year, more money is on the way. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, for example, announced this week it will pour $6 million more into the contest. With three weeks left to go before Nov. 4, spending on broadcast ads in the Senate race is on pace to easily crest over $60 million and could approach $70 million.


This chart counts each time a commercial related to the North Carolina U.S. Senate campaign airs on a broadcast television station. The data is provided to WRAL News by Kantar Media Services. Commercials included are those paid for by candidates and political parties, as well as those aired by third-party independent spending groups such as super PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations.


Kantar Media estimates ad spending using a formula that takes into account the media market and time of day an ad airs. It counts each instance of an ad airing on a broadcast television station.

It is clear from the latest data that Hagan is putting her fundraising advantage over Tillis to use on the air. She has put more ads on the air this year – 11,485 – and spent more since Jan. 1 – $6.4 million – than any other candidate, party or group that has tried to influence the Senate race on the air.

Outside spending groups that backed Tillis took an early spending lead early in 2014. But in the past three months, Hagan's spending has helped her take an advantage, with 39,544 spots on the air aimed at helping her compared with 33,637 ads for the year favoring Tillis.


The data for this chart is provided to WRAL News by Kantar Media Services. This bar chart shows the ESTIMATED spending in the U.S. Senate race by advertiser on broadcast television commercials. Kantar compiles these estimates based on air time and other information.