Which Legislative Races Are In Play? Follow The Money

Conceptual 3d abstract illustration.

If you ask anyone involved in campaigns which races they think are in play, you are only going to get a version of the truth most expedient to them. Heck, you might even get lied to. No, seriously, lying happens in politics.

So we thought it would be helpful to see which races the money is flowing into in the closing days of the election season. We think that may give a more truthful idea of which races are actually in play.

We compiled all of the Independent Expenditure (IE) reports filed since October 1st and looked at how much each group has spent in the last month and where they spent it.

We caution you that this is only a small look at the bigger picture. We did not look at how much money individual candidates raised or spent, how much or where political parties are spending on GOTV efforts, or how much was spent before October 1st. All of those things matter in campaigns, but they are outside of our goal here of seeing which races last-minute IE money is being steered towards.

We broke the major spending IE groups into two camps. The first group is those supporting Republican/conservative/pro-business candidates. That group includes the Alaska Republican Party, The Accountability Project (Republican State Leadership Committee, Interior Voters For Coghill and Southwest Voters for Sivertsen), The Truth Alaska, and We Are Alaska (Alaska Support Industry Alliance). The second group is those supporting Democrats/Pro-Labor/Liberal Interest Groups. That group includes Working Families of Alaska, Together for Alaska, NEA-PACE, Planned Parenthood, and The Alaska Center.

Oddly, the Alaska Democratic Party shows no state level IE work.

Races Getting Big Spending

As most would expect the big races attracting IE money at the end are the state senate races in district B: Sen. John Coghill vs. Luke Hopkins and district N: Sen. Cathy Giessel vs. Vince Beltrami.

Here is how the senate race for district B in Fairbanks looks:

Senate Seat B Total IE Spending
Pro-Coghill $16,579.00
Anti-Coghill $53,980.00
Pro-Hopkins $24,325.00
Anti-Hopkins $51,580.00

As you can see, the two are roughly even with about $70K in support, with most of the money going to attack an opponent rather than prop up the supported candidate. Which makes sense because going negative works, but when candidates do it themselves it can make them look bad too. IE’s aren’t on the ballot so they don’t care if they are liked..

Here is the senate race for district  N which spans East Anchorage and Hillside.

Senate Seat N Total IE Spending
Pro-Giessel $15,115.00
Anti-Giessel $30,163.00
Pro-Beltrami $24,660.00
Anti-Beltrami $143,380.00

Giessel is getting more help, having received about 158K in IE support to Beltrami’s $55K. The scale of that is a bit of a distortion in that Beltrami has received plenty of IE support from labor groups throughout his run.

For the purposes of this piece, the key takeaway is that Giessel’s corporate and Republican Party IE support and Beltrami’s labor support are both anteing up. That shows they both think this race is competitive.

The House race that is getting the most last-minute dough is the Southeast race between Independent Rep. Dan Ortiz and Republican Bob Sivertsen.

House District 36 Total IE Spending
Oritz $50,250.00
Anti-Ortiz $27,272.00
Sivertsen $21,045.00
Anti-Siversen $0.00

When you add the money spent to attack Ortiz and to support Sivertsen it roughly equals the money supporting Ortiz. Each side is getting about $50K worth of outside help.

One of the races we have been watching with great interest, the South Anchorage race in House District 22 between Republican Rep. Liz Vazquez and Independent Jason Grenn is close, or so the IE money says:

House District 22 Total IE Spending
Pro-Vazquez $75.00
Anti-Vazquez $2,285.00
Pro-Grenn $16,535.00
Anti-Grenn $20,255.00

Both sides are getting about $20K worth of IE support.

Now here is where things get interesting The rest of the races receiving significant attention from the IE groups is very one sided.

The East Anchorage race in House District 27 between Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt and former Democratic Rep. Harry Crawford looks this way:

House District 27 Total IE Spending
Pro-Pruitt $0.00
Anti-Pruitt $13,120.00
Pro-Crawford $20,910.00
Anti-Crawford $0.00

$34K is being spent to help Crawford, but nothing is being spent to assist Pruitt. This jibes with something we noticed after the last candidate financial disclosures came out. Pruitt raised a pedestrian $20K in the last fundraising period. He is better than that, a lot better, when he wants to be.

These numbers indicate to us that Pruitt and the Republican Establishment think he is very safe, but the Left thinks Crawford has a real shot and is spending big to put him over the finish line.

Come election day, one side is going to feel pretty stupid.

And that isn’t the only race showing this dynamic.

We’ve heard from Republican insiders that they think they have a real shot in Fairbanks to take out Democrat Rep. Adam Wool with Republican Aaron Lojewski. If that is the case, one has to wonder why this month’s IE spending in that race looks like this:

House District 5 Total IE Spending
Pro-Wool $24,385.00
Anti-Wool $0.00
Pro-Lojewski $0.00
Anti-Lojewski $20.00

Interestingly, in the cases of both Pruitt and Lojewski, the big money insider politicos are steering clear, but political outsider and budget guru Brad Keithley has personally spent $8,800 and $6,200 respectively to help their causes. That is still very little compared to the other side, but it is something.

Races Getting Little Attention

Now we get to the group of races that received just a little IE attention, but not likely enough to make much difference.

This race between Sen. Bill Wielechowski and Kevin Kastner. Republicans Have been fronting like this is a real race, but the total $2K spent by IEs on both sides at the end shows they don’t really think it is.

Senate Seat H Total IE Spending
Pro-Wielechowski $850.00
Anti-Wielechowski $750.00
Pro-Kastner $400.00
Anti-Kastner $0.00

House Districts 16, 18, and 21

Do Republicans really think they can beat Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, Rep. Harriet Drummond, and Rep. Matt Claman? The IE’s don’t seem to think so.

House District 16 Total IE Spending
Sponholz $8,495.00
Anti-Sponholz $2,475.00
Pro-Hadley $0.00
Anti-Hadley $0.00
House District 18 Total IE Spending
Drummond $11,850.00
Anti-Drummond $2,475.00
Pro-Gordon $0.00
Anti-Gordon $0.00
House District 21 Total IE Spending
Pro-Claman $3,495.00
Anti-Claman $3,075.00
Pro-Stewart $150.00
Anti-Stewart $0.00

RACES GETTING NO ATTENTION

Sadly, some races got zero attention or so little it is almost embarrassing. For instance, we didn’t even see the name Natasha Von Imhof appear in any of the reports from the last month. Isn’t she or her senate district L opponent Forrest McDonald worth at least a $500 Facebook ad to support or attack? Apparently not.

One race surprisingly absent was House District 25 between Republican Rep. Charisse Millett and Pat Higgins. Not a dime has been spent this month to help or hurt either. Maybe Millett really does have the 12 point lead she is claiming.

Other incumbents that these reports would seem to show are pretty safe, regardless of what party leaders or candidates claim, are Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Rep. Cathy Munoz, Rep. Bryce Edgmon, Rep. Louise Stutes, Rep. Chris Tuck, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, and Rep. Steve Thompson.

PS

Because the partisans among us will care, the total for each side’s spending in the last month is $304,888 from the right to $305,608 from the left. That is roughly even.