Behind The Numbers: NY-03 Special Election Hits $21.4M in Ad Spending


Written by Nate Schwartz

Tomorrow is election day for the NY-03 special. Last month, our first blog concerning the NY-03 special election highlighted a total of $7.3M in political ad spending targeting the seat. That total has risen to $21.4M in the month since, an increase of $14.1M from early January. The special election is taking place due to George Santos’ (R) expulsion from Congress in December 2023. Cook Political Report currently rates the seat as a Republican Toss Up.

As of early January, Democrats were outspending Republicans at an approximate 6:1 ratio. Today, that ratio is only around a 2:1 overall spending advantage for Democrats. Democratic advertisers have spent $13.6M in the election compared to $7.9M by Republican advertisers. 

Tom Suozzi, the Democratic candidate, went up on traditional media for the first time on December 14, 2023, one week after being named the nominee. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) went up for the first time on January 2nd. Republican advertisers went up for the first time the next day, as the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and Mazi Pilip launched a coordinated buy. Democratic advertisers first spent $1M in a single week on the week of January 7th. Republican advertisers first spent a combined $1M the week of January 21st. Between January and election day, Democratic advertisers spent an average $1.9M per week while Republicans spent an average $1.1M. Although Republicans ramped up their spending efforts in mid-January, Democratic advertisers have held a strong advantage throughout the special election.

The top spending advertiser, Democratic group House Majority PAC (HMP), has spent $5.8M, which is $1.5M more than the next closest advertiser, Republican group Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF). The two advertisers account for 47% of total spending targeting the special election. In the 2022 cycle, those two advertisers made up 23% of all House spending.

On the candidate level, Tom Suozzi has outspent Mazi Pilip and her coordinated spending with NRCC $3.8M to $2.3M. Although Pilip is being outspent by $1.5M, she has a spending advantage on digital platforms. The Pilip campaign has spent 39% of its total ad spend on digital ($125K), while her coordinated spending has focused 91% of their effort on TV spending. Meanwhile, Suozzi is only spending 1% of his total expenditure on digital ($41K). 

Messaging in the NY-03 special election highlights differing strategies from the two parties. Republican ads discuss immigration four times more frequently than any other issue. Top Republican advertiser, CLF, has mentioned immigration in all of their ads, and they have 1047 more total airings than the next closest Republican advertiser, NRCC/Pilip. Their top airing ad attacks Suozzi for “kicking ICE out of Nassau County”. NRCC/Pilip’s highest airing ad aligns Suozzi to President Biden, specifically on their border policies.

On the Democratic side, advertisers have focused on three key issues: abortion, social security, and law enforcement. The top airing ad comes from House Majority PAC, which attacks Pilip for her stance on abortion. The next highest airing ad comes from DCCC, which states that Pilip is handpicked by MAGA Republicans and will bring cuts to law enforcement and social security. Lastly, the top airing ad from Suozzi’s campaign mentions his stance on immigration and contrasts it with Republican attack ads. Democratic advertisers hold a strong advantage in broadcast ad airings.

The NY-03 special offers up 2024’s first toss up House race. The special election saw over four times the total spending of the 2022 NY-03 general when Santos won. Tomorrow’s election will provide early clues about the effectiveness of each party’s ad strategies ahead of expensive Congressional battles across the country later this year.

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