March 28, 2022
Written by Ethan Mort
2022 gubernatorial elections have already seen over $191M in advertising spending around the country. Within the last few years, a renewed focus has been placed on Governors’ offices as statehouses across the country passed controversial election security measures and legislation that put statehouses on the frontlines of national social issues. In Florida’s recently passed “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, both parties looked to the executive powers of the Governor. Had Andrew Gillum defeated Ron DeSantis in the tightly contested 2018 gubernatorial election, the bill likely would have been vetoed. Last summer when more than 50 Texas State House and State Senate Democrats fled Texas to deny a quorum in an attempt to block passage of Texas Senate Bill 1, Governor Abbot broke the 38 day gridlock by vetoing the paychecks of 2,100 legislative Democratic staffers. In recognition of the growing importance of the role of a governor, longtime Democratic Congressional fundraisers are pivoting from the Capitol to focus on gubernatorial races. On the other side of the aisle, the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) has already spent $18.8M in advertising across a handful of states. Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Georgia have seen the most gubernatorial spending so far.
Overall, a total of $191M has been recorded in 2022 gubernatorial races across broadcast, cable, radio, satellite, and digital media. The most advertising spending has been in broadcast which has seen nearly 65% of total spending. Of the $191M in total spend, $109M was spent by candidates, $79M was spent by issue groups, and $4M was spent by coordinated buys.
Advertising Spending by Party
So far, Republicans have outspent Democrats in gubernatorial races, as GOP advertisers have spent a total of $145.5M while Democrats have spent $44M. The top spending advertisers on the GOP side are the RGA in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, and Nevada, Greg Abbott in Texas, and Commonwealth Leaders Fund in Pennsylvania. For democratic spending, the top three spending advertisers are J.B. Pritzker in Illinois, Fair Fight Action in Georgia, and Amplify New Hampshire.
While not shown in the visual above because he has not made a candidacy announcement, spending by the interest group, “Friends of Andrew Cuomo” would rank third among the Democratic advertisers with total advertising spending of $2.81M.
At this point, there have been 19 gubernatorial races that have seen over $1M in advertising spending and ten gubernatorial races where over $8.5M has been spent. Illinois has seen the most ad spending. This is not surprising considering that in 2018, Illinois saw $126M, second only to Florida that year. Illinois is currently ranked as likely Democratic by key prediction experts. Illinois incumbent J.B. Pritzker is currently the top spending Democratic advertiser in all gubernatorial races across the country. This comes as no surprise as he spent $171M of his own money to defeat the then-incumbent, Governor Bruce Rauner in 2018.
The state with the second most gubernatorial spending so far has been Pennsylvania, totaling $22.45M. Currently, the Commonwealth is hosting a competitive GOP primary. Currently, there are 9 candidates running for the GOP nomination, with the frontrunners attracting millions in spending so far. Advertisers supporting Bill McSwain have spent a combined total of $16M, while spending supporting David White stands at $3.7M. Due to a lack of a competitive primary, Democrats only make up 0.4% of spending in Pennsylvania. This will doubtlessly increase, as there is strong potential for a competitive general election in November, with Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report rating the race as a “Toss Up.”
In Georgia, Democrats are outspending the Republicans in the star-studded 2018 rematch between Governor Kemp and Stacey Abrams. Abrams, a fundraising lightning rod for the Democrats, has already raised $9M since announcing her candidacy a few months ago. While Abrams isn’t facing a serious primary challenger, Kemp is going up against Trump endorsed opponent, former Senator David Purdue. In the state of Texas, despite an uncompetitive primary on both sides, the state saw $16.91M spent, a strong indicator of just how much Beto O'Rourke and Greg Abbot will end up spending come November.
Lastly, this past week the Republican Governor’s Association placed an $18 million buy on broadcast and cable pre-booked spending this fall. $10 million of this has gone towards Arizona, with Nevada and Kansas receiving $5M and $3.4M respectively. The DGA, has not purchased any major ads thus far.
So far, Republicans have been outspending Democrats in nearly every major race, however it is important to note that Republicans have had more competitive primaries than their Democratic counterparts. We can anticipate that the DGA, along with other Democratic advertisers, will rapidly spend more as November approaches. Regardless, both parties are investing heavily in gubernatorial races this year, as total expenditure nears $200M placed by the end of March. This drastically outpaces 2018, as there had only been $104M placed at this point four years ago.