December 9, 2020
During the 2020 election cycle at AdImpact, we captured extensive spending data for both federal level races and state level races. This year saw an outstanding amount of money spent on down ballot races, with candidates hoping to capture the excitement and voter turnout of a presidential election year. As a vital state this cycle, Pennsylvania received a significant amount of money in down ballot races. We have record of more than $42M spent on state level races in Pennsylvania.
Ad spending on 25 of the 50 Pennsylvania State Senate districts up for election this year reached $15M. 99% of that spending was concentrated among 6 very competitive races. Before the 2020 election, the State Senate stood at 29 seats held by Republicans and 21 seats held by Democrats. Cook Political Report listed Pennsylvania’s State Senate as lean republican and the State House as a tossup between the two parties. Democrats wanted to flip 4 of these very competitive races and hold onto 2 seats to eat away at the Republican majority in the Legislature.
Spending Data by Party and Advertiser
Of the almost $15 million spent across these six State Senate Districts, spending by Democratic and Republican candidates and issue groups were nearly equal. Spending matched within $600K, with the Democrats spending slightly more. However, this slight edge did not make the difference Democrats needed. Pennsylvania Democrats did not gain any seats and might lose PA SD-45. This race remains uncalled over a month after election day. Currently, Democratic incumbent Jim Brewster and Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli are deadlocked with 50 % of the vote each.
Surprisingly, issue group spending only made up $2.66M of the $15M in these races. The Democratic group Pennsylvania Fund for Change was responsible for $1.16M of that spending. The largest issue group spending in support of Republican candidates was the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. The group spent half a million across all six races.
The highest spending candidate of these races was Democratic challenger John Kane for PA SD-09. He spent $1.73M. PA SD-09 was the only seat to switch hands as Kane defeated Republican incumbent Thomas Killion with only 52% of the vote.
The outcome in Pennsylvania matches down ballot trends across the country. Spending skyrocketed, Democrats often outspent their opponents, and Republicans held on to key seats.
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