Republicans won several key races in the states Tuesday, including a stunning upset in Kentucky’s gubernatorial contest. The GOP held on to most offices in Mississippi and kept control of Virginia’s legislature.
The successes came even though Republicans spent less on average than Democrats on political ads to get out their message.
In Kentucky, businessman Matt Bevin was elected governor, only the second Republican to hold the position in more than four decades. He beat Attorney General Jack Conway by a margin of 53 percent to 44 percent.
There was some good news for Democrats in Pennsylvania, however. Democratic candidates for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court won all three seats up for election on the seven-person court.
Voters decided major races there and in four other states.
The Republican victories came despite a major advertising push by Democrats and the independent political groups that back them. Democratic-affiliated advertisers spent more than $155,000 on political ads on average compared with the $85,000 that Republicans spent on average in the mainly red-leaning states, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.
“The ad spending in these races can almost be like trench warfare,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. “You put in a bunch of resources and the lines don’t move that much.”
Altogether, more than $73 million had been spent on TV airtime for 2015 state-level races through Monday, according to Kantar Media data. The firm monitors 211 media markets around the country. The figures do not include ads for radio, the Internet, direct mail or TV ads that air on local cable systems. The estimates do not include the cost of making the ads.
The win in Kentucky means that Republicans will hold the top job in 32 states depending on what happens in Louisiana. Voters there go to the polls on Nov. 21 to vote for governor. Republican David Vitter is behind in the polls.
Here’s how the races shook out: