Outside spending shows which House districts are in play for super PACs ahead of elections

10/23/2016 08:00 AM

As outside groups ramp up their efforts in this year’s slate of state House races, filings with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance reveal exactly which districts are getting the most attention about two weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 elections.

The two major super PACs spending heavily in this year’s cycle have invested in different strategies.

Republican super PAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership has spent the bulk of its resources on TV advertising while Democratic super PAC Kentucky Family Values has used much of its resources on door-to-door canvassing, each in seven districts.

Both sides are battling for control of the state’s House of Representatives, where Democrats maintain a 53-47 majority in the last southern legislative chamber in Democratic hands.

Republicans are hoping for a majority in the House for the first time since 1921.

Here’s a closer look at outside spending, according to independent expenditure filings with KREF reviewed last week. This report does not include dollars spent by Americans for Prosperity Kentucky, which is investing in field work, digital advertising and direct mail since the 501(c )(4) does not have to report expenditures to KREF as an issue-based group.

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership

KREF filings show Kentuckians for Strong Leadership has spent $516,497 in legislative races thus far this fall.

The group, which has received from the Republican Party of Kentucky $203,570 worth of polling and $84,000 worth of opposition research this year per federal filings, invested more than half of that — $327,922 — in television buys with another $21,500 spent to produce the spots.

The super PAC’s TV campaign includes three districts held by Democrats — $33,185 in Rep. Fitz Steele’s 84th House District covering Perry County and part of Harlan, $33,538 in Rep. Cluster Howard’s 91st House District in Breathitt, Owsley, Lee and Estill counties, and $11,657 in Rep. Martha Jane King’s 16th House District in Logan and Todd counties and part of Warren— and two open seats last represented by Democrats— $37,380 in the 94th House District covering Letcher County and part of Pike and $22,492 in the 23rd House District covering Barren County and part of Warren.

The super PAC is also airing ads in Democratic Rep. John Short’s 92nd House District covering Magoffin and Knott counties, although a corresponding independent expenditure report was not on file at KREF.

The lion’s share of the group’s TV spending, however, has been in defense of a pair of recently converted Republicans in Reps. Denny Butler and Jim Gooch, who joined the GOP ranks after Gov. Matt Bevin’s election last year.

Kentuckians for Strong Leadership has reported dropping $110,283 in Butler’s 38th House District in southwestern Jefferson County and $99,827 in Gooch’s 12th House District covering Webster and McLean counties and parts of Daviess and Hopkins counties.

The group has supplemented that effort with radio and digital advertising, direct mail and phone-banking, according to KREF filings. The super PAC’s radio spending has totaled $19,110 in the 12th, $10,003 in the 94th, $9,022 in the 23rd, $5,259 in the 16th, $5,275 in the 91st, $3,000 in the 38th and $2,999 in the 84th, plus a $15,069 buy in support of Republican Rep. Suzanne Miles in the 7th House District covering Union County and parts of Henderson and Daviess.

It’s digital advertising totaled $26,000 in the 38th, 84th, 91st and 94th districts.

The group also peppered House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s 95th House District covering Floyd County and part of Pike with $8,079 in direct mail as part of that spending.

Kentucky Family Values

Kentucky Family Values, which has received $27,000 in research and polling from the Kentucky Democratic Party, has spent $777,075 so far this cycle, with much of that coming in the field to defend Democrats, according to KREF filings.

The Democratic super PAC has invested $46,601 going door-to-door in Rep. Linda Belcher’s 49th House District in Bullitt County, $46,173 in Rep. Chuck Tackett’s 62nd House District covering Owen County and parts of Scott and Fayette, $46,119 in Rep. Tom McKee’s 78th House District covering Harrison and Pendleton counties and part of Scott, and $45,790 in Rep. Jeff Taylor’s 8th House District in parts of Trigg and Christian counties.

The group is targeting Butler, Gooch and Miles in its field efforts on the Republican side, spending $53,281, $45,225 and $45,082 respectively in their districts, KREF records show.

Kentucky Family Values hasn’t invested in television advertising or direct mail so far, instead focusing on radio and digital buys. Those dollars are part of a wider effort in various districts throughout the state.

3rd House District (McCracken; held by Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paduch): $17,460 radio, $11,599 digital

7th House District: $20,801 radio, $13,701 digital

8th House District: $17,136 radio, $10,031 digital

12th House District: $13,102 radio, $14,090 digital

14th House District (Daviess and Ohio; held by Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro): $11,723 radio, $10,867 digital

16th House District: $37,104 radio

38th House District: $19,721 digital

39th House District (Jessamine and part of Fayette, held by Rep. Russell Meyer, D-Nicholasville): $30,800 radio, $12,040 digital

62nd House District: $19,500 radio, $24,245 digital

70th House District (Mason, Fleming, Robertson and Bracken; open): $3,552 radio, $13,339 digital

74th House District (Montgomery, Powell and Menifee; held by Rep. David Hale, R-Wellington): $2,861 radio, $13,340 digital

78th House District: $10,652 radio, $12,402 digital

84th House District: $4,893 radio, $11,817 digital

91st House District: $6,243 radio, $12,417 digital

92nd House District: $11,182 radio, $13,499 digital

94th House District: $7,628 radio, $12,362 digital

Other outside spenders

A handful of other groups have reported independent expenditures in this fall’s campaign season.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has been the most active in that category, reporting $104,000 in TV and radio ads against Stumbo and $46,500 in TV and radio spots against Tackett.

Planned Parenthood Action Kentucky has focused entirely on Butler’s race, spending $17,017 on Facebook ads last month.

Kentucky Tomorrow, a super PAC run by Jennifer Krantz, Congressman Thomas Massie’s former political director, reported spending $17,780 in radio ads against Stumbo, KDP Chairwoman Sannie Overly and House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins in August.

Correction: A previous version of this report indicated that polling and research was received by political parties from their respective super PACs.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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