Written by Sydney Beckham and Meaghan Walsh

Tomorrow, five states will host their state primaries on Super Tuesday. While this day is typically associated with Presidential politics, Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas all host their statewide primaries on this day as well. With competitive primary elections such as the California Senate and five open Congressional seats in North Carolina, ad spending is trending upward. 

Each of the five states has seen an increase in primary ad spending from 2020 to 2024. We have seen a 139% increase in non-Presidential Super Tuesday political ad spending this cycle: from $96.2M spent in 2020 to $230.4M spent in 2024. In both 2020 and 2024, Democrats outspent Republicans 56% to 44% across the five states. 

Super Tuesday ad spending chart

California has been a hotbed of political ad activity this year with a 323% increase in state primary spending from 2020 to 2024. This year, California’s Senate primary makes up 30% of all statewide primary spending across the five Super Tuesday states. The contest has racked up $67.6M  in ad spend, easily establishing it as the most expensive 2024 state Super Tuesday election. It has also already become the costliest Senate race in the state’s history. Democratic candidates have spent a combined total of $48.5M, while Democratic issue groups have spent $18.9M for the open seat. The only Republican spending is from Eric Early, who spent $20K. The top three issues mentioned in the CA Senate primary were Donald Trump, healthcare, and housing. Another statewide contest that has garnered millions in ad spending is California’s Proposition 1, which aims to increase funds for mental health treatment facilities and provide housing to homeless individuals. Proposition 1 has received $17.0M in ad support across the Golden State and received no ad spending in opposition. This initiative is also the second most expensive state Super Tuesday contest across the country. The most expensive Congressional primary in California is CA-47, which is currently an open seat due to Katie Porter’s retirement to run for Senate. The open primary has seen $5.5M in ad spending. Democratic candidate Joanna Weiss has received the most ad support with $5.3M, coming from groups including United Democracy Project and Women Vote.

Following redistricting in North Carolina’s Congressional Districts, the Tar Heel state has seen a huge increase in Republican House spending this year. North Carolina House primaries have garnered $20.7M total in ad spending, with Republicans contributing 99% of the total ad expenditure. The most expensive primary is NC-13 with $6.1M, followed by NC-08 with $4.2M. Both seats are open due to incumbent resignation/retirement and currently have crowded Republican primaries. Additionally, North Carolina’s Gubernatorial primary has seen $5.7M in ad spend, largely from Bill Graham (R). Democratic spending has only amounted to $66K. The 2020 Gubernatorial primary saw $3.2M in total spending, marking a 78% increase this year. The top three issues mentioned in North Carolina’s state primary ads are Donald Trump, crime, and immigration.

Meanwhile in Texas, the State House finds itself at the center of the political ad conversation. With $31.7M in ad spending, the Texas State House accounts for 57% of all non-Presidential Super Tuesday spending in Texas. The most expensive State House elections are TX HD-21 with $3.0M, followed by TX HD-11 at $2.5M, and TX HD-55 with $2.3M. The highest spending advertiser in Texas State House primary elections is the conservative group School Freedom Fund with $4.3M. Their involvement in the primaries has helped make education the top issue in Texas state primary ads this year. Greg Abbott has spent $3.9M in political ads targeting various Texas State House primaries. The second largest share of Texas primary spending this year goes to Congressional House spending with $9.6M. Their most expensive Congressional primary is TX-26 at $2.9M. Finally, the Texas Senate primary has seen $7.0M. 

Alabama primary politics has largely coalesced around Congressional House races with $10.5M spent. These House elections account for 75% of non-Presidential Super Tuesday primary ad spending in Alabama. The most expensive House elections in Alabama this year are AL-01 at $5.1M and AL-02 at $4.3M. Judge positions have seen $2.9M in Alabama, with 75% of this spending targeting the Alabama Supreme Court primary. The top issues discussed in Alabama state primary ads this year were Donald Trump, crime, and character. 

Arkansas rounds out the list as the fifth state to hold a primary on Super Tuesday. With only $1M in spending overall this year, it has seen the fewest dollars by far. The AR-03 primary has seen $564K in political ad spending. The largest advertiser in the election is incumbent Congressman Steve Womack (R) with $543K in spending. The top issue discussed in his ads is immigration. 

Political ad spending is on an upward trend this year for primary elections in California, North Carolina, Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas. In these contests, ad messaging has largely focused on Donald Trump, crime, and character. As primary results come in, AdImpact will continue to track these important elections heading toward the general election this November.

For more analysis of North Carolina's congressional elections, read our blog on how redistricting impacted ad spending for North Carolina's congressional primaries.

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