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Political Ad Spigot Stays Open, With Dollars Pouring Into Rhode Island In Recent Weeks.


It was election day in Rhode Island on Tuesday, at least for Democrats in one congressional district as they selected a candidate for a special election to fill the seat held by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) until he resigned earlier this year. The race generated $3.3 million in advertising spending, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact, as it pitted 11 Democrats against one another.


In deep blue Rhode Island, the stakes in the primary are high, since it typically amounts to a win in the general election. Overall, AdImpact says the money spent ranks Rhode Island’s first congressional seat race as the seventh most-expensive Democratic primary for special elections during the current Congress.


According to data from AdImpact, the biggest share of dollars was spent by a candidate who wound up not being in the race. Don Carlson dropped out after WPRI-TV released a report that alleged potential inappropriate text messages with a student when he was a teacher at Willimas College. Prior to suspending his campaign, Carlson spent $625,000 on ads.


The second-biggest spender was frontrunner Aaron Regunburg, whose campaign spent $476,0000 while the Working Families Party dropped an additional $220,000 backing Regunburg’s campaign. But AdImpact says the numbers show that it is Lt. Governor Sabina Matos that has had the most support from outside organizations. Four groups spent $1.3 million backing Matos for the congressional seat.


Overall, political spending continues to pace well ahead of the 2020 cycle. Through Sept. 1, AdImpact says $665 million has been spent compared to $383 million four years ago. In total, it says there has been $178 million in total spending and future reservations in the 2024 Presidential race. The most spent so far is $51 million by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), with $37 million scheduled to go toward ads through January. AdImpact says most of the spending came from the Trust in the Mission group which is supporting Scott’s campaign. Meantime, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may have needed to leave the campaign trail to focus on Hurricane Idalia, but his ads keep running. Thanks to an influx of cash, he is said to be gearing up to run more ads in Iowa.


AdImpact also says it has begun to see spending rolling in from President Biden’s reelection effort. It ran a one-day $250,000 ad blitz that featured ads in the Atlanta, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Detroit, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee markets on the same day as the first Republican debate. He also bought time on Fox News Channel. “Spending on the Democrat side will surely pick up once the Republican primaries have finished,” says AdImpact in its latest update.


In the 2024 election cycle, AdImpact says nearly two-thirds (63%) of all Republican primary spending has gone to Iowa and New Hampshire. It says GOP presidential spending is currently outpacing 2020 Democratic presidential spending by 238% in Iowa and 328% in New Hampshire through Aug. 23.

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